Landrace Strains: Exploring the DNA of Modern Cannabis Varieties

Landrace strains are cannabis strains that are indigenous to a certain area of the world, which is coincidentally how some of the popular strains from today get their names.

Landrace strains are confusing to many, since there’s not nearly enough applicable cannabis education around the world.

These strains actually set the bar for growers and breeders around the world, but also give them a platform on which they can build upon.

Botanists believe that cannabis was first grown and domesticated in the Middle East several thousand years ago, mostly in the Hindu Kush area which is today on the borders of several countries.

Cannabis in the world

Cannabis is now enjoyed by people on each and every continent, but of course, the bud we are consuming today isn’t the same that was first grown and domesticated in the Hindu Kush mountain region.

Cannabis strains have evolved and changed in several ways, and so today we have several genotypes of cannabis (sativa, indica, ruderalis and hybrids) and hundreds, if not thousands of phenotypes that are genotype and environment interactions combined.

Cannabis genotypes

Image credit: Dinafem Seeds

As you can see from the image above, landrace strains can be considered as the dinosaurs of the cannabis world—they are old, super cool, and you just don’t get to see them in their original form anymore.

There’s been a lot of natural cross breeding and inbreeding with these old strains, resulting in landraces either losing quality genetics or their potency severely dropping due to poor agrarian habits of growers.

For some strains, such as G13, we’re not even sure if they were engineered and bred in a laboratory or if they are perhaps one of the true landraces that used to dominate vast regions.

Lots of actual landrace strains were brought to Europe and America in the 60’s and 70’s for commercial use, especially through the Hippie Trail which led across the Middle East and through central Europe, all the way to the UK and later US.

US soldiers also brought back tons of seeds from landrace strains harvested in East Asia, as the Vietnam War was raging at the same time the Hippie Trail was one of the main smuggling routes.

What are landrace strains?

Landrace strains are cannabis phenotypes that are unique and native for certain areas of the world.

Good examples of landrace strains are:

  • Lamb’s Bread from Jamaica
  • Hindu Kush from the Middle East
  • Swazi Gold from South-Central Africa.

These strains are pure sativas and indicas, which gives them a unique genotype—genetic constitution of each strain in particular.

When I say genetic constitution, I don’t mean just THC and CBD levels.

No, what I mean by genetic constitution is their ability to grow well in their natural habitats, and to continue doing so when crossed with other landraces, especially when put in different habitats.

Since cannabis can grow almost anywhere up to 50° latitude North and South, these strains can grow in a variety of habitats—warm, cold, humid, arid,  you name it.

Of course, landrace strains that are used to living high up in the mountains with no humidity and warmth aren’t going to grow and perform well when put in a hot and humid environment.

This is one of the biggest flaws of landrace strains—They adapt extremely poorly to the environment.

They are praised, however, for their ability to grow extremely well in areas even remotely resembling their natural habitat.

Native areas of landrace strains

Landrace strains can live anywhere up to 50° latitude North and South, which is a pretty wide belt around the equator.

Let me put that into perspective for you:

The 50th parallel North, which marks the 50° of latitude North from the equator, passes through the following countries: France, Belgium, Czechia, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia, China, Canada and the UK.

It completely jumps over the continental US.

Continental US

On the other side, the 50th parallel South pretty much swallows the whole continents of South America, Africa and Australia, even New Zealand as it passes below each of these.

Various cannabis strains that initially grew in specific parts of the world quickly spread through the rest of the world in the New Age, as Europeans colonized the world.

Landrace strains are still present in countries and areas they first came from, however in smaller numbers and with slightly diluted genetics.

There are 6 major areas that are characteristic for the landrace strains they gifted to the world.

Central Asia

This area is located around the Hindu Kush mountains, which famously birthed many fan-favorite indica strains.

The Hindu Kush mountains are on the border of today’s Afghanistan, Pakistan, northmost India and Tajikistan.

Hindu Kush, Afghani, and Mazar I Sharif are just some of the most popular landrace strains that come from this area, which is famous for its durable indica strains.

Southeast Asia

The southernmost part of India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam are all a part of this area known for the Thai landrace, which gave genetics to hundreds of today’s popular strains.

Cambodian, Nepalese and Thai landraces are pure sativa strains.

Strains such as Aceh, Luang Prabang and Thai are native to this area, and they tend to grow huge.

They gained in popularity under the name “Thai sticks” which were world-renowned for their strength.

Lately there was a lot of speculation that those sticks were heavily laced with opium, which isn’t inconceivable at all.

South-Central Africa

Strains that are native to this area have just recently gained in popularity.

It is possible that some of these genetics have been brought over to the Caribbean area during the colonization period.

Most popular strains from South-Central Africa are Swazi Gold, Rooibaard, Kilimanjaro, Malawi and Durban Poison, which is today one of the most popular pure sativa landrace strains.

North Africa and Middle East

Cannabis has been a part of the Arabian Culture for centuries, which can be seen in its presence in both North Africa and the Middle East.

This area is known for being the only other area in which indica landrace strains grow natively, although it is theoretically possible that they were brought there in the past.

Plants grown here are often used for kief extraction in order to make some of the best hash in the world.

Central America

Central American strains have been growing in popularity over the last several years as they are known to be durable in a multitude of weather conditions.

All strains found in this area are known to be very potent sativas that give their users energizing highs and make them happy and uplifted.

Some of the most popular strains found in Mexico and the rest of Central America are Lamb’s Bread and King’s Bread (which are local Jamaican strains) and Acapulco Gold—Mexico’s finest.

South America

Some of the most in-demand landrace strains are located in South America.

The reason why there’s such a high demand for these strains is because you have to risk a lot in order to get a couple of seeds.

South America hasn’t been really the safest and most politically stable place on Earth, which is why going around the jungles and mountains looking for cannabis might be a little tricky.

Luckily for us, strains like Colombian Gold, Santa Marta Gold, Punto Rojo, and Limon Verde are now widely available to the public because of fearless strain hunters and breeders that helped keep those genetics alive.

What are heirloom strains?

Another two areas that became known for landrace strains but didn’t have many native strains were Hawaii and California.

In the mid-20th century, growers in these two states grew some of the most amazing landrace plants.

Those plants were later cloned and preserved, due to their extreme potency and good genetics, which is why cannabis fans named them heirloom strains.

Basically, heirloom strains were cut from their mother strains, which also happen to be landrace strains, and during this process they got different names.

Here’s an example: Chocolate Thai came from Thai, but without any genetic crossing or inbreeding. Chocolate Thai came from pure breeding and taking extreme care of the plants.

Here’s one more people might be more familiar today:

Ghost OG may be the strongest strain there is according to recent THC testing, but it has the same genetics as OG Kush.

List of all landrace strains

These landrace indica strains are originally from the Asian continent:

  • Hindu Kush
  • Afghani
  • Lashkar Gah
  • Mazar I Sharif
  • Pakistani Chitral Kush
  • Mag Landrace
  • Pakistan Valley Kush
  • Pure Afghan

The following indica strains are known as heirloom strains, and they were primarily local to the Hawaiian islands:

  • Hawaiian Duckfoot
  • Puna Buddaz
  • Moloka’i Purpz

These landrace sativa strains are found in South and Central America:

  • Lamb’s Bread
  • King’s Bread
  • Punto Rojo
  • Acapulco Gold
  • Colombian Gold
  • Panama Red
  • Limon Verde

The following landrace sativa strains are native to Africa:

  • Swazi Gold
  • Red Congolese
  • Kilimanjaro
  • Durban Poison
  • Malawi
  • Rooibaard

Here’s a list of landrace sativa strains characteristic to Asia:

  • Aceh
  • Thai
  • Chocolate Thai
  • Kauai Electric
  • Luang Prabang
  • Altai (South-Central Russia/Mongolia)

Have in mind that there are sometimes several names for the same strain, which I didn’t take into account. These usually tend to be translations— for example Punto Rojo can be translated as Red Dot.

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Experienced cannabis user, interested in the latest cannabis news, stock market updates and cannabis culture.

2 thoughts on “Landrace Strains: Exploring the DNA of Modern Cannabis Varieties”

    • Hey Jack, this website might be a good place for you to look. However, I don’t think there is such a strain as Cambodian Red. There is Cambodian, which is a cross of Thai and Haze, and Panama Red which is an American landrace. There is also Red Congolese, which is African. I don’t know if any of those two might have been crossed to create Cambodian Red, but if there hasn’t been such a cross, feel free to experiment and let us know how it went.

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