In a complex world, the notion of getting back to basics is increasingly appealing - whether that means farm-to-table produce, hand-woven clothing, or car-free commuting. The cannabis world, too - after years of obsession with variety and crossing and re-crossing strains - is embracing a similar return to its roots, resulting in a renaissance of landrace and heirloom strains.
What is a landrace strain?
Simply put, landrace cannabis strains are those indigenous to certain geographic areas - whether African sativas, or Afghani indicas - that were never systematically bred. "Instead," writes Drake Dorm of Medical Jane, "after years of isolation and inbreeding, the plants begin to exhibit the same characteristics," whether short and stocky, or with a shorter flowering time, or a distinctive aroma.
In practical terms, that means a few things. First, most landrace genetics are 100 percent sativa or indica (although some exceptions to this rule exist) and generally include in their name the country or region of origin (see Durban Poison or Acapulco Gold.)
Landrace strains also tend to be exceptionally potent.
"Talk with any cannabis connoisseur old enough to remember these legendary strains and you'll come away with tales of their epic strength," writes The Weed Blog's Johnny Green. "Equatorial sativas from Africa to Vietnam flourished in Hawaii's tropical dreamscape of cannabis cultivation. Indicas from Afghanistan were more at home in Northern California's cooler climate. I was fortunate enough to live on the Big Island of Hawaii from 1993 to 1997, and I can attest that the best cannabis I have EVER smoked was grown in volcanic soil on the slopes of the largest active volcano in the world, Mauna Loa."
Green isn't alone in this assessment: many connoisseurs claim that not only are the psychedelic, transcendental properties of landrace strains unmatched, but their medical properties are also unique, relieving pain and nausea associated with specific conditions more effectively than hybrids produced using modern breeding techniques.
Intrigued? Happily, breeders are starting to recognize these back-to-basic values: companies like Ace Seeds and CannaBioGen have stepped up to provide consumers with a variety of landrace and heirloom seeds - or you can always find out more from Leafly, or your favourite dispensary.