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Everything You Need to Know About Landrace Strains

Added 15 September 2023

Thousands of cannabis strains, but whenever you visit a seed bank, you’ll find the strains divided into sativa, indica, or hybrids. But once in a while, you’ll come across strains labeled landrace. What are these cannabis strains and how are they different from other regular cannabis strains that you love? 

Landrace cannabis strains are not just a niche type of strains; they are the forebears of modern cannabis strains. Our ancestors used these strains for centuries before they fell into the lap of modernity and its cross-breeding. Learn all about landrace strains in this article, including its history, and the best examples. 

What are Landrace Strains?

What are Landrace Strains?

Many people get confused about what landrace strains really are, but it’s not their fault. The internet is flooded with contradictory information on landrace strains. Some experts consider landrace strains to be those that are native to a specific region; for instance, a strain that originated in the islands of Southeast Asia. Others say that these are strains that have evolved by themselves without any interference. In addition, any strain that hasn’t been bred with other strains is usually referred to as a landrace strain. 

To avoid confusion, you must know that the cannabis plant species was first domesticated in the Neolithic period in Asia — experts aren’t sure which part of the continent, though — before the plant spread around the world. Keeping this in mind, landrace strains are those that were domesticated in their respective regions and have, over time, adapted to the geographic locations. 

Landrace strains are cannabis strains that have become native to certain regions and environments over centuries, whether it is the lush tropical forests of Thailand or the mountains of the Himalayas. Another thing that distinguishes landrace strains is that they have not been crossbred with other varieties; a landrace strain, like the South African Durban Poison, is pure, making it quite valuable for breeders across the world. 

Thanks to this “pure” quality of landrace strains, they have become the backbone of most cannabis strains that have been bred into existence by breeders around the world. For example, ruderalis landrace strains, originating from Southern Siberia, adapted to the harsh, short summers of Central Asia and have been bred with regular strains to produce autoflowering strains. 

Another quality of landrace strains that many breeders find appealing is their ability to withstand local environmental stressors. Landrace strains are naturally acclimated to their environments and have developed unique characteristics that help them against local pests, climate, pests, etc. Lastly, landrace cannabis strains have unique flavors and effects depending on the local climate and soil that they’re accustomed to. 

Difference Between Cultivars and Landrace Strains 

Difference Between Cultivars and Landrace Strains 

So, are landrace strains different from cultivars? Yes, they are different in many ways. Cultivars are cultivated varieties of cannabis that have been developed to exhibit specific qualities or genetics. Cultivars also consist of heirloom cannabis plants; even though they are not crossed with foreign strains, they are still cultivated outside their native environment, which sets them apart from landrace strains. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that many breeders have developed heirloom strains from landrace strains. As mentioned above, this allowed the breeder to take advantage of the landrace strain’s phenotype and translate it into a heirloom strain. An excellent example of this is Angola Red, which is a heirloom strain that was bred from a native African strain. 

Coming to cultivars, landrace strains differ from them in various ways, not just how they have come into existence. They differ in color, phytochemical concentration, and leaf side; plus, landrace strains are generally less consistent and stable, which is crucial for their survival in the wild. That’s how landrace strains are different from cultivars. 

Landrace Cannabis Strains History 

Landrace Cannabis Strains History 

Cannabis tourism isn’t a new concept, and it has been around for a while. Cannabis lovers from around the world have explored and documented cannabis strains from around the world, and so far, they have found approximately 100 distinct landrace strains that are being grown in various parts of the world. 

In fact, many of these landrace strains have been discovered in parts of the world that are usually inaccessible or difficult to reach, where they could flourish undisturbed by civilization or other human-related factors. And it’s crazy how amazing these strains are at adapting to their respective environment! 

Since they are often found in such far-out places, we aren’t even sure if we’ve discovered all the landrace strains yet. This is why strain hunters exist — their job is to look out for these landrace strains. 

Think of the history of cannabis as a family tree and landrace strains are the forebears of the cannabis species. Most modern cannabis strains can be traced back to landrace lineage in one or the other way, whether directly or indirectly. 

But where do landrace strains come from? Looking at the history of cannabis itself comes in handy. Most experts believe that cannabis was first domesticated around 10,000 years ago in Central Asia. In fact, the earliest documented use of cannabis for its medicinal purposes dates back to 2,737 BC in China, where Emperor Shen-Nung promoted it as a treatment for over 100 conditions. 

Even various Hindu texts dating back to 2,000 to 1,500 BC mention the use of cannabis as a source of joy. An Egyptian medical papyrus from around 1,550 BC notes the use of cannabis for treating inflammation. 

Despite being used by the native populations, it was extremely difficult for someone from one region to transport the cannabis varieties to another region, giving rise to newer varieties. So, for centuries, landrace strains flourished in their native environments while being used by the native populations, and they retained their genetic profile through it all.

Of course, the question remains: Where do landrace strains come from? Unfortunately, no one knows. 

Popular Types of Landrace Strains 

Popular Types of Landrace Strains 

Despite existing for thousands of years, landrace strains are relatively rare. The most well-known landrace strains were discovered by the Western world in the 60s and 70s. And since most cannabis users prefer potency and flavor over heritage, not many are interested in landrace strains. 

But don’t worry, we've gathered some of the most popular landraces from different regions of the world below. 

Latin American Landrace

1. Columbian Gold 

Columbian Gold is also known as Santa Marta or Santa Marta Colombian Gold, and for many consumers, this landrace strain is the Gold Standard of cannabis. Columbian Gold leans towards the Sativa side and is found in the Santa Marta mountains of Columbia. 

This strain is known for its fluffy, resin-rich buds that produce a sweet, skunky smell with hints of lime and lemon. It produces a high that is uplifting and active, making it excellent for creativity, productivity, and dealing with conditions like anxiety, paranoia, pain, ADHD, and depression. 

Columbian Gold is one of the go-to choices for breeders across the world, and thanks to its 19% THC levels and trichome-rich buds, this landrace has been used to produce various potent strains like Dog Shit, South American, and Harlequin. 

2. Acapulco Gold 

Acapulco Gold is the lesser-known cousin of Columbian Gold, but it is just as good if not better than the latter. This is a rate Sativa landrace strain from Mexico that produces an energizing and motivating high and is known for its orangish buds with hues of gold, brown, and green. 

It is rich in resin, which gives it a THC level of 18%, and flavors of coffee, wood, and honey. Cannabis users who know this strain consider it to be one of the best cannabis strains in the world, and if you have never experienced it, you should. However, finding it can be a challenge, so be prepared. 

And since it’s a terrific landrace strain, it is used to parent various legendary cannabis strains like Ape Shit, Happy Hour, Candy Cake, and Wedding Crasher. 

3. Panama Red

Panama Red is a cannabis strain known for its captivating beauty. As a Sativa, it produces deep green buds adorned with amber or red pistils, which give it a distinct and alluring appearance. This strain has achieved legendary status, thanks to its ability to provide a gentle yet energizing high that became synonymous with the counterculture movement of the 1960s especially during the heyday of the psychedelic hippy era.

One of the notable features of Panama Red is its visually stunning look. The vibrant red pistils strikingly contrast against the green buds, creating a mesmerizing sight that attracts cannabis enthusiasts.

Despite having a history and a dedicated fan base with users raving about its features, Panama Red’s popularity gradually declined over time due to challenges associated with its cultivation. The flowering period lasted around 11 to 12 weeks — a feature that wasn’t very attractive to commercial growers who sought strains with quick harvesting strains. 

Also, the THC content ranged from about 10% to 16%, but users and commercial cultivators wanted strains with higher potency. However, this doesn’t mean that Panama Red is forgotten because it’s still cherished and respected by those who appreciate its characteristics. Even today, you’ll see many growers happy with strains that produce around 16% THC with long flowering times. 

Panama Red’s aroma is characterized by a strong and earthy base scent, which adds to its charm. Moreover, it has a beautiful terpene profile with a combination of caryophyllene, humulene, pinene, and terpinolene. No wonder the strain still has some users singing its praises. 

Asian Landrace

1. Aceh or Atjeh

Aceh or Atjeh is a pure Sativa landrace strain that originates from Aceh, Indonesia, and it is a slender yet tall cannabis plant that is often considered to be the best strain to come out of Indonesia. 

It is an excellent strain for stimulating creativity and focus, and you can also use it if you want a little help in social gatherings as it will make you open up and talk! And even if that’s not your goal, you’ll still enjoy the subtle tropical flavor of tea and mango. 

These qualities also make Aceh an excellent parent strain for breeding, and it has been used to develop various strains like Tangerine Trainwreck Haze, Sour Diesel #2, and Mendo Breath. 

2. Thai

Thai is a popular landrace strain native to Thailand, and it is often referred to as Thai Sticks due to the traditional method of drying and tying the buds into long sticks. This landrace has been used to create some excellent cannabis strains like Juicy Fruit, Haze, and Voodoo. 

The high that this strain produces is powerful but not scary, which boosts creativity and focus. And distinct aromas of fruity citrus mixed with hints of tobacco and earth make this a party for your taste buds. 

This strain was popularized in the 70s and 80s when it was brought to the States, and you can even grow it indoors now. 

3. Nepalese

Although newer higher strains with high THC content may have overshadowed its popularity, Nepalese continues to hold a place in the hearts of cannabis connoisseurs. Its iconic appearance, uplifting effects, and unique terpene profile make it a sought-after choice for those seeking a one-of-a-kind experience. 

The term "Nepalese" isn’t just one landrace strain. Instead, it encompasses various Sativa strains and phenotypes originating from Nepal. These indigenous landrace strains exhibit consistency in their characteristics. Typically, most of these strains are tall and slender plants adorned with elongated flowers and a captivating aroma to boot. 

Moreover, they are highly valued for their resin production, which makes them even more popular. The buds are fluffy and green, but what adds to their beauty are the pistils absolutely covered in trichomes. 

Coming to the potency, you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for extremely high levels of THC. Nepalese landraces generally contain THC levels ranging from 14% to 17%. They also contain about 1% CBD. 

The high won’t be powerful, but it will be mild and make you want more. It’s uplifting and provides an invigorating experience unparalleled to none. This soothing strain that may help alleviate stress has a generous amount of terpenes, including myrcene, linalool, and carene, which make the flowers smell like a combination of woody, earthy, and floral scents all combined in one package. 

Some popular strains derived from Nepalese landraces include Himalayan Gold, Nepal Jam, and Compassion. 

Indian Subcontinent and Middle Eastern Landrace

1. Hindu Kush

One of the most popular landrace strains is Hindu Kush, which you must’ve already heard of. This landrace strain is found in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. Since they grow in challenging conditions, Hindu Kush is known for its buds that are lush with trichomes, which protect the plant from low temperatures. 

Hindu Kush is not only a parent to some awesome strains like Zammi Special, Las Vegas Purple Kush, and Rainbow Sherbet, but it is also popular for hash that is produced in India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. If you ever consume hash from the Himalayas, it is probably from the Hindu Kush. 

Hindu Kush has a subtle, earthy aroma with hints of sandalwood, and with a THC content of 19%, this strain produces a deep sense of calm when you consume it. It’s a rare pure Indica strain that’s excellent for relaxing or alleviating symptoms of nausea, stress, and pain. 

2. Afghani Kush 

Afghani Kush can be considered a cousin of Hindu Kush since both strains are found in largely the same region, but the Afghani Kush variant is more on the Indica side. It is usually found in the Himalayan mountains between Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. 

Afghani Kush is also quite loaded with trichomes and cannabinoids, thanks to its harsh native environment. Hence, Afghani Kush is another strain that’s used for hash production in its native regions. Some of the most popular descendants of Afghani Kush are AK-47, Blueberry, and OG Kush. 

If you want to grow a pure Indica strain, Afghani Kush is what you should get. It is one of the very few pure Indica varieties still existing in the market. It has a THC content of up to 17% and a CBD content of 6%, making it excellent for a relaxing high.

African Landrace

1. Kilimanjaro  

Kilimanjaro is a Sativa-dominant landrace strain that originates from the Tanzania mountains, and it was originally grown by the native population for religious and hunting use. The people back then referred to this strain as the elephant stomper, and it produces a high that is hyper and energetic. It’s the cannabis equivalent of coffee. 

Plus, the buds are covered in rich resin that gives it potency and a unique flavor of fruit, lemon, and citrus. It’s an excellent strain for users dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression, too. 

2. Durban Poison

Not many landrace strains are as popular as Durban Poison, which originated in South Africa, and you have the opportunity to enjoy and grow it in its true form! It’s become quite popular around the world for its sweet flavor that is piney with hints of spicy herbs and sage. 

It also contains 19% THC and 1% CBG, which produces a productive high that you can use to get through your busy day or accompany you on your adventure. And for many users, it can also boost creativity. Even the buds are round and chunky and covered in resin. 

These qualities make Durban Poison a great choice for breeding, and you may have already tried some of its descendants like Royal THCV, Royal CBDV, Royal cookies, and Durban Haze. 

3. Moroccan

Moroccan landrace cannabis strains can be traced back to the Rif Mountains in North Africa, specifically in the northeastern parts of Morocco and the plateau near the city of Ketama. This region boasts a history of cultivation that dates back centuries — going back as far as the 15th century. Moroccan cannabis varieties, especially hash, have gained a reputation for their characteristics. Hash enthusiasts can’t resist it as it contains high levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. 

Moroccan landrace strains share some similarities with the super popular Hindu Kush landrace strains. For example, they grow minimal branches, focus on developing strong central colas and the sizes of the plants are relatively compact, ranging from 1-2 meters tall. 

The geography and climate of the Rif Mountains region play a role in shaping the qualities of Moroccan cannabis. The combination of soil, sunlight, and ideal temperatures creates an optimal environment for cultivating cannabis. This advantageous geographical setting has allowed Moroccan cannabis varieties to thrive for centuries and made them an integral part of the culture and economy. Some examples derived from this landrace include Maroc and Green-O-Matic. 

4. Malawi

Malawi, often referred to as "Malawi Gold" represents a landrace strain originating from the Salima region of Malawi. This pure Sativa cultivar bears similarities to Thai landrace strains when it comes to its growth characteristics. Malawi landrace plants are famous for their traits including long flowering periods and a sturdy central cola that supports their impressive height.

In general, Malawi landrace strains display moderate growth; however, they have luxurious foliage with slender, serrated leaflets, making them stand out for their distinctive appearance. 

Malawi Gold differs from other strains with the amount of resin they produce. It’s extremely appealing, and the potency is something you’ll never forget. Although the effects are very psychoactive, you feel great with an uplifted mood, which embodies the essence of the Sativa lineage. 

Malawi Gold is popular mainly because of its colossal buds that often grow up to staggering heights of 2 feet! Yes, the buds! With elongated calyxes and few leaves with ample node space, you really don’t have to worry much about mold. The plants are truly majestic to look at. 

If you’re keen to try exotic landrace strains that blow your mind away, you can’t go wrong with Malawi Gold. The terpene profile is spectacular, which is why the strain tastes almost sweet. Cannabis connoisseurs hold Malawi Gold close to their hearts because of its stunning effects and appearance. 

Coming to the effects, you will enjoy the euphoric bliss the plant offers. Make sure you don’t have to drive anywhere and operate any machinery because the strain is strong, despite being a pure landrace strain. Popular strains bred using Malawi Gold include Malawi Mini, Power Malawi, Gold Star, etc. 

Other Lesser Known Landrace Strains 

Other Lesser Known Landrace Strains 

Some of the other lesser-known yet significant cannabis strains are:

  • Swazi Gold 
  • Lamb’s Bread 
  • Pakistani Chitral Kush 
  • Pure Afghan
  • Hawaiian Duckfoot
  • Rooibaard
  • Altai
  • Luang Prabang 

Preservation of Landrace Strains 

Preservation of Landrace Strains 

Landrace strains existed in their local regions for centuries, being enjoyed by the native populations with minimal crossbreeding. However, as the cannabis industry evolved, users started producing hybrids of cannabis varieties, giving rise to virtually thousands of new strains in a matter of a couple of decades. 

However, as the focus of the industry shifted to hybrids and newer varieties, the cultivation of landrace strains saw a decline. Why not — modern strains are more stable, consistent, resilient, and phenotypically preferred by most users, making them the go-to choice over landrace strains. In fact, many of these ancient strains are close to extinction!

There’s another problem — landrace strains have been brought out of their native environment and forced to grow in “foreign” environments, which makes them exhibit new and different phenotypes. They start producing different flavors, potency levels, phytochemical compositions, etc. And the only way to maintain their characteristics is to reintroduce them to their native environment. 

The truth is, that landrace strains have been diluted and altered much more than anyone would’ve liked. It’s nobody’s fault; it was the course that the industry took, but it did bring about some downsides. For now, it’s good to know that landrace strains still exist in their pure forms and you don’t need to be an expert breeder to grow them. 

But as a community, it is our responsibility to not only acknowledge the importance of landrace strains but also work toward their preservation. Many experts are making efforts to preserve these landrace strains and they’ve seen great success so far. And if you want to be a part of this, it is highly encouraged. 

Growing Landrace Strains 

Growing Landrace Strains 

Growing landrace strains is not just about preserving the strains, you also get to experience a unique cannabis flavor and experience that’s often lacking in modern potent strains. And that is why you should definitely consider growing landrace strains. The first step in growing landrace strains is acquiring them, which can sometimes be an issue. 

Can you still get your hands on pure landrace cannabis? The answer is not so simple. Some landrace strains are readily available and accessible in their pure forms, like Durban Poison and Afghan Kush. You can find these strains at the most reputable seed banks easily with all the information you need to grow them properly. 

On the other hand, other strains have become quite rare. The most famous example is Malawi, which is so rare that you’d need to have excellent social skills and know the right people to even experience this strain in its native environment. And as the industry evolves, such strains are only going to be more difficult to get. 

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel though: many dedicated growers and seed banks have popped up around the world that are committed to preserving pure landrace varieties. They haven’t got it all figured out yet, but you can use them to get your hands on pure landrace strains. 

What Can You Expect From Growing Landrace Strains?

Landrace strains are excellent but you have to know a few things before growing them in your garden. First and foremost, they won’t be as potent or flavorful as modern hybrids, which have been specifically bred for flavor and potency. Instead, landrace strains tend to be more subtle.

Landrace strains are also somewhat difficult to grow as they are adapted to their native environments. So, if you grow Chocolate Thai in your European climate outdoors, expect it to grow unexpectedly. But if you want it to grow “authentically,” you’ll have to create the same tropical climate indoors it is used to. 

Next, know that landrace strains are in no way the future of cannabis. They are more in line with vintage cars that people like to use for their feel and character, but there is no way the automotive industry is going back to those bare-basic cars. Ultimately, the choice between landrace strains and hybrids lies in this: what your preferences are, how much you’re willing to put in, and what you expect out of your cannabis. 

Summary: Everything You Need to Know About Landrace Strains

We are lucky to live in a time where we are spoiled with choices — even if you tried a new stain every day, you’d probably never run out (at least for a few years). The credit for this rich diversity goes to landrace strains, which have made this possible. 

Landrace cannabis strains are those that are native to a particular location and have adapted to the local environment over centuries. All modern hybrid strains are, directly or indirectly, descendants of landrace cannabis, and while landrace strains aren’t as potent or refined, it’s worth preserving them. 

We are always going to breed new cannabis strains, but once in a while, it’s worth going back to the strains that started it all and experiencing cannabis the way our ancestors did. So, if you are an experimental hobby grower or simply want to preserve the precious DNA of landrace strains, consider growing them. 

The challenge won’t be easy to crack; you’ll have to find pure landrace seeds and mimic their native environments in your cannabis grow room, but once you do that, you’ll be rewarded with a yield that’s as “pure” as cannabis can get. 



the problem is, once they take a landrace and selectively cultivate it, it is non longer a landrace... it is a cultivar by definition. so, there may be some overlap in these terms as opposed to one or the other. either way, arbitrary distinctions of little relevance.