At Weedsy, we welcome the never-ending flow of new crossbred and landrace strain. Patients can enjoy a spectrum of medical benefits, and connoisseurs bask in the diversity of their complex flavour profiles. For those only accustomed to synthetic bags of nameless herb, signature varieties like Pink Kush and Bubble Gum introduce a new cannabis world. But where did all those “Kushes,” “Hazes,” and many other hybrids appear from?
Historical records from around the globe, some beginning as far back as 2900 B.C., tell us cannabis has existed alongside humans for thousands of years, grown for food, fibre, and fodder, as well as for spiritual and therapeutic purposes. According to the best available analysis, cannabis initially emerged in Central Asia and was eventually settled by humans to nearly all regions of the planet. This was no fluke; that the landrace stain of marijuana is one of the oldest known horticultural plants, and its abundance of uses ensured that transients and merchants took these seeds wherever they moved. Ancient humans, who did not study agriculture but most likely picked wild cannabis seeds for food, spread the flower throughout the Eurasian landmass between 10,000 and 5,000 years ago. Later civilizations dispersed cannabis to Africa, Southeast and the Middle East in the period between 2,000 and 500 years ago, and ultimately to the New World around the year 1545 A.D. and Australia in 1788. Without human interference, cannabis would have been confined to Central Asia, as its innate dispersal mechanisms are minimal.
Outside of Central East Asia, all landrace strains are the outcome of escape (or “feral”), cultivars, and strains that were selectively produced by humans, which then continuously adapted to their environment. Along the way, other newer varieties would have interbred with these wild escapees. (Even within the ancient range of Central Asia, it is speculated that feral domesticated cannabis has interbred with its wild predecessors, making the current presence of an original indigenous strain unlikely.)
These factors account for genetic abnormality between landrace strains, which have been crossbred to create the cannabis variety we see today. Landrace strains are frequently named after their native or adopted region (e.g., Afghani, Thai, or Hawaiian), and traces of these ancestor strains are sometimes detectable in their crossbred descendants. Combining environmental circumstances and selective breeding by native peoples gave rise to these stable varieties, the ancestors of all current strains.
Today’s cannabis business, driven by our widespread infatuation with variety, rarely sees these pure landrace strains. On Weedsy, most of the sativas you find (denoted with a red tile) are not pure sativas, but rather sativa-dominant hybrids that exhibit reliable sativa-like attributes. The same persists for indicas (purple tiles). The hybrids, marked with green tiles, introduce to strains with more stable indica-sativa characteristics. Hybridization parts us with very few pure landrace strains, but they are not lost altogether.
During the 1960s and 70s, farmers worldwide began gathering landrace strains to breed in their local nurseries. These strains, called heirlooms, were then developed in other environments like Hawaii and California. Arjan Roskam, the founder of Greenhouse Seeds in Amsterdam, is one of these strain hunters. He and his colleague Franco Loja favour these landraces in their selective breeding of Greenhouse varieties.
“Arjan always thought these landraces very important for the breeding method because they are the principles that have been chosen by nature.” Franco told us, “The [period] over which nature does this is so immense that they are not replicable by man under any circumstances — not indoor, not outdoor, not in any way.”
The environment is a critical member of the structure of cannabis compounds like cannabinoids (e.g., THC, CBD) and aromatic oils, called terpenes. Climate, heat, soil, fertilization, and even the rate at which the cannabis is collected alter the chemical makeup of marijuana, and landrace strain, having changed to their circumstances over time, are studied by some to have favoured synergistic levels of curative compounds.
Most cannabis farmers have been selectively growing their landrace strain overtime for a high THC content, favouring this psychoactive cannabinoid over its other powerful chemical constituents like CBD. Recovery of these secondary cannabis constituents has led to the foundation of high-CBD product options, which have expanded the medical potential of cannabis to a significant degree. It begs the question: What will we discover from breeding habits that further diversify cannabis’s chemical profiles?
They may be different, but landrace and heirloom changes still bloom around the planet. Here are just a few from various regions around the world: