Looking for a better understanding of the genetic heritage of your favorite strains? Documents that date back as far as 2900 BC let us know that cannabis has been an integral part of human culture throughout the world for thousands of years. It’s believed that cannabis originated in the Hindu Kush mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan, then gradually made its way to other parts of the world.

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What is a Landrace Strain?

A landrace strain refers to a “local” strain of cannabis that’s adapted to the environment in its geographic location. They’re typically named after their native region, which is the reason we’ve got stains like Hindu Kush, Panama Red, Durban Poison, Acapulco Gold, and more. Landrace strains have adopted to their environment over time, finding the optimal balance to thrive. Climate, weather, soil, and other environmental factors in certain areas are what make up the ideal conditions for cannabis to adopt to its environment.

It is the landrace strains that have withstood the test of time, becoming the foundation of the variety of strains we see today. Landrace strains are the true OGs of cannabis. As an example, Hindu Kush  originated in the Hindu Kush, a rugged mountain range that stretches from Afghanistan to Pakistan, making it a landrace strain to Afghanistan/Pakistan.

the hindu kush mountains at sunset The Hindu Kush Mountains. istock/Nattinee Sanchaisirikul
Hybridization has left us with countless strains of cannabis, but fewer original genetics. Coming across a pure landrace strain is rare, with most of today’s popular cannabis strains crossbred with two or more strains. Landrace strains have withstood the test of time. They are the seeds that were smuggled from their native regions by some of the first cannabis crusaders. Landrace strains have given us the wide variety of weed we’re so familiar with today, each with their own history and geographical home.

Popular Landrace Strains

Acapulco Gold

Acapulco Gold comes from the beautiful expanse of land known as Acapulco, Mexico. It originated in the Guerrero Mountains just outside the city and made its way into the US in the 1960s. In the 60s and 70s, Acapulco Gold was considered “connoisseur pot”, better than anything that could be found in California or Texas at the time. It was one of the most sought-after strains in the 60s and smuggling it over the Tijuana border to San Diego was a common occurrence.

According to the book, El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency, one group of San Diego high school students and their teacher used surfboards to sneak it into the US from Tijuana beaches. Later they graduated to yachts until they were caught by US Coast Guards. It’s said that Acapulco Gold’s distinctive brownish gold color is a direct result of the way the plants dried in the wind coming off the Pacific Ocean. This landrace strain is known to grow best in its native environment and has shown to lose potency when grown anywhere else.

Afghan Kush

Afghani, or Afghan Kush, is believed to be one of the oldest landrace strains that exists. In the 1960s and 1970s, soul searching seekers from the US, Canada, and Europe travelled along the “Hippie Trail” and attained Afghan Kush seeds from locals in the Hindu Kush mountain region.

Graphic of the hippie trail The Hippie Trail Credit: Karte: NordNordWest, Lizenz: Creative Commons 3.0 de
These seeds returned to foreign countries along with the travelers who took them, and for the first time, cannabis that had only grown in its native region was now taking root thousands of miles from home.  Afghan Kush is one of the first strains that was grown in earnest by the first generation of cannabis growers in the US, Canada, and Europe. It is a landrace strain that truly changed the history of cannabis throughout the world.

Colombian Gold

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range is one of the world’s highest coastal ranges, reaching altitudes of over 18,000 feet just 26 miles from Caribbean coast. The Santa Marta mountains are also home to Colombian Gold, a landrace sativa that has become increasingly rare.  Like other landrace varieties, Colombian Gold seeds were smuggled back to the US in the late 1960s and 1970s by counterculture cannabis revolutionaries of the day. It was one of the most popular strains back in the day, a landrace that was used to breed several common strains such as Skunk #1. While there is likely Colombian Gold that continues to grow wild in its native region, there are some cannabis historians who believe that seeds or clones of the original genotype no longer exist. 

Durban Poison

Durban Poison is a landrace strain that is pure sativa, native to the South African port city of Durban. This popular strain dates back to the 14th-century and was cultivated by Khoikhol, San, and Bantu indigenous tribes. Famous marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal is credited for smuggling this strain back to the US in the 1970s. Once returned to the states, Rosenthal began the process of cultivating this South African strain and found that flowering times varied widely. He began the process of manipulation with others, specifically designing a strain that would have a shorter flowering period.

Cutting cannabis buds. medical marijuana concept background istock/VictoriaBee
The Durban Poison we’re familiar with today is the result of early experimentation from seeds brought back from South Africa. It was officially released in 1985 and became a hit with outdoor growers, especially those in Northern California.

Hindu Kush

Mentioned above, Hindu Kush is one of the original landrace strains, native to the expansive Hindu Kush Mountains that run through northern Pakistan and central Afghanistan. Hindu Kush, a pure indica, was isolated to these mountains for centuries before seeds were first smuggled to the US in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, Kush is a word that not only refers to this OG strain (and many other strains that carry its genetics) but is also a word for weed in general. “Kush” is a word that’s become synonymous with cannabis, often used when referring to weed. Like Afghan Kush, Hindu Kush is a landrace strain that has been used extensively in the creation of the countless strains that have become common today. Strains like OG Kush, Bubba Kush, Purple Kush, Master Kush, and more all share genetics from the Hindu Kush landrace strain. Many believe Hindu Kush is the first strain of cannabis, undoubtedly a legendary landrace strain with roots that run deep.