Even if you’re a total newbie to the cannabis culture, chances are you are already familiar with the words strain, landrace, and hybrid. Dispensaries and enthusiasts alike love to hunt down new varieties of marijuana and add new dimensions to their high. And, thanks to the recent worldwide wave of legalization, there has never been a better time to try as many different and potent strains as the times we live in. 

But how did we end up with that many strains? Where did it all start? Why is “weed” called “weed”? We will attempt to answer all these questions with some help from biology and science. Get ready for a relatively deep dive into what landrace strains are and how they helped shape the modern cannabis world.

Definition Of A Cannabis Strain

A cannabis strain is a type of cannabis that has been bred to bear specific genetic traits. This usually means cannabinoid content, terpene profile, yield, growth rate, and flavor. The word strain is a synonym for cultivar, and the two terms are often used interchangeably.

What Are Landrace Strains 

In simple terms, a landrace strain (or heirloom strain) is the original version of a cannabis strain found in nature and is naturally adapted to its local environment. You could say it’s the OG strain of any particular cannabis family.

These plants are the ancestors of all modern cannabis hybrids and are the purest and unadulterated form of cannabis. Landrace cannabis is usually found in remote, isolated locations and is often referred to as “wild weed.” Some examples are Acapulco Gold (first spotted in Mexico), the infamous Durban Poison (first smuggled in the US from wandering hippies in South Africa), Pure Afghan from Afghanistan, and many others.

The plants have adapted to their environment over many generations and are often very different from the cannabis grown today. Even though landrace varieties are weak in terms of potency by modern standards, they have a unique terpene and cannabinoid profile and are known for their unique flavor. Many of the strains you know and love have landrace genetics within them.

Why Are Landrace Strains Important?

In today’s globalized market, pure landrace strains are almost a thing of the past, and as such, they are prized possessions. Experienced connoisseurs and large cannabis seed banks pay top dollar to get their hands on the pure and exciting genetics of a bona fide landrace. 

Of course, that’s easier said than done: once you get a landrace seed from its native Asia or Africa, then it’s, by definition, no longer a landrace. The reason is that most breeders will not pollinate it with an identical variety, resulting in a new version with diluted DNA. Maintaining a pure heirloom strain is expensive and does not make sense in a market that is mainly after potency and a quicker high. Don’t forget that cannabis today is three times more potent than it was in the 90s.


Realistically, the chances of encountering a pure landrace strain in North America are next to none. However, it is easy to study and experience their genetics through the countless hybrids readily available to you at your nearest dispensary. Unless you plan an expedition to the Hindu Kush mountains. In this case, keep an eye out for wild cannabis plants!