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Heirloom And Landrace Cannabis Strains


heirloom landrace marijuana cannabis strainBy Rick Pfrommer, Director of Education, Harborside Health Center

Original landrace and other heirloom strains are often lost in today’s hyperkinetic world of breeding. ‘Landrace’ refers to strains that are indigenous to an area, such as Red Congolese. ‘Heirlooms’ are strains that were collected worldwide during the 1970s and propagated in Hawaii and Northern California. Our constant desire for new strains leads breeders to continually cross and re-cross existing strains looking for the next big thing. There is, however, a small but growing contingent of cultivators who’re returning to our cannabis roots and propagating old landrace and heirloom strains. Varieties range from pure African sativas to Afghani indicas, collected by world travelers on the infamous Hippie Trail (also referred to as the “Hashish Trail”).

All during the 1970s and early 1980s, cannabis aficionados of all stripes traveled the world smoking the finest cannabis and hashish available. From Nepalese temple balls to the famed Mazar-i-Sharif Afghani Black, the Hashish Trail was filled with exotic delights. The trail rolls on through Lebanese Red to Moroccan Kif, with stops in Bangkok for Chocolate Thai, and Columbia and Mexico for their infamous golden strains. Many of these intrepid souls also collected seeds during their travels. It was these landrace strains that became the basis for the nascent cultivation culture that eventually sprang forth in both Hawaii and Northern California.

Talk with any cannabis connoisseur old enough to remember these legendary strains and you’ll come away with tales of their epic strength. 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. By the time I got there almost everything grown in Hawaii was some combination of genetics, no longer a landrace. Yet a few of the old-timers still had access to the classic ’70s strains, making for a wonderfully unique and diverse smoking experience.

From Nepalese temple balls to the famed Mazar-i-Sharif Afghani Black, the Hashish Trail was filled with exotic delights. 

The scene in California at this time was slightly different. Northern California, as beautiful as it is, ain’t Hawaii. The Emerald Triangle rests approximately on the same parallel as Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountains. While Southern Californians could grow Columbian and Mexican sativas, their northern counterparts found the stocky indica plants much better adapted for their climate. Shorter flowering time allowed harvest to occur before the fall rains came with their mold-inducing downpours. These short and chunky plants produced the infamous skunkweed that became Northern California’s calling card. Again, anyone old enough to remember this cannabis will never forget the pungent, almost rancid, skunk-like aroma. I remember going to parties in the early ’80s with this herb double-bagged-and still being outed minutes after walking in. “Yo man, I know you’re holding, share the love!” Our own Steve DeAngelo also has memories of this era, saying that to this day he’s not seen cannabis like what he saw from Northen California in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

So what does all this nostalgia mean for modern patients and cannabis aficionados? Well, several breeders have also recognized the value in these old-school strains. Ace Seeds, CannaBioGenn, Reeferman Seeds and Tom Hill, as well as the one-and-only Neville, are all selling a wide variety of landrace and heirloom seeds. Look for some of these to be available at Harborside in the near future. Growers who’re looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive environment are turning to these varieties. For patients, many of these strains offer powerful relief in a different fashion than some of the more modern varietals. It’s not that they’re necessarily better, just different, and perhaps more effective for some patients’ specific conditions or needs. In any case, they’re strains definitely worth checking out.

Harborside Health Center frequently has landrace/heirloom strains. Red Congolese is a regular African landrace we feature. Chocolate Thai, Afghani, and Columbian/Acapulco Gold also often grace our shelves. The future will bring many more of these classic gems to Harborside. Be on the lookout soon for an entire heirloom line which will be packaged in its own special jar. If you’ve never tried any of these strains, please consider them next time you stop by. I think you may just enjoy these unique choices as much as I do.


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Johnny Green


  1. Hey… just a flower child looking for a mellow moment with leaves not flower/bud. Anyone got any suggestions for a little sweet smelling (incense-like) and sweet tasting leaf like what I found in LA in the late 60s and in Paris France in the early 80’s? The 80’s leaves I bought from an African friend which I put in crushed into an ebony pipe mixed with crushed eucalyptus. Never needed much to feel fine. Now I have a prescription but dislike every stinky, way-too-strong-for-me stuff I’ve tried so far, and the list is long. Please?

  2. In the early 80s we bought Chocolate Thai that smelled and tasted like a chocolate bar. It really was a treat. I remember a very intense body high from Thai bud. It was a unique feeling and experience. I miss this variety. It would wonderful to experience Chocolate Thai as it was back then. I have not seen it as good since then.

  3. Lol. I’m afraid you are very wrong on that. It is definitly a landrace. I am an African, born and raised, and I have been smoking Red Congolese for many years. I also know many traditional growers over here in Congo who have grown it for 20+ years and they say it has never changed. I too have been growing it for a few years now from seed I got from these growers and can see for myself. It most certainly is a landrace. You must have just been given some form of hybrid that they were calling Red Congolese. Hope this helps! :)

  4. In 1976 I stole some of my Dad’s weed and got stoned for the first time. I had smoked hits off joints with my friends but come to find out, Daddy smoked the finest, Santa Marta Gold. I smoked a joint of that at the Redondo Beach, CA pier and my world changed. I hallucinated in a good way for about 6 hours and have loved weed ever since. I saw and heard angels. I saw good and evil in myself and others. It was fantastic! I am 50 now and to this day have never found or grew weed that matched the potency and hallucinogenic/psychedelic properties of those landrace strains from the late 70’s like Santa Marta & Acapulco Gold, Colombian and Panama Red Bud. I got saved smoking Colombian Redbud walking home from a friends house in Birmingham in 1978. It was like Jesus showed up and walked with me and talked me into coming over to his side. I think I am going to try some of those seeds next year and see what I come up with.

  5. My good good good friend, you are completely right. Fortunately I do have some of those Hawaiian seed genetics from Classics Seeds from Marc Emery. The Haw indica was def a indigenous variety to the likes I have not seen till this day. As a certified master gardener (USDA) I would like to work with you to keep these varietals alive. What I have is a classic commanding 20 on one half gm in Wash. DC! This indica eq or blow some kushes away. Rainbow colors fr purp, hunt green, lt green,orange, yellow at One foot with round leaves and a smell of rotten pineapple and bubblegum and ext slow growing and resin like water on thin flowrers.truly truly. Have seeds from a selfing male. My friend Rick give me a click —inertrl@gmail.com

  6. Delta Zonker on

    Good article that brings back memories. When I was vacationing in sunny southeast asia (I was an army helicopter mechanic), in 1969, I came to love a strain called Delta Zonker, which was grown in the Mekong Delta around Vung Tau, Viet Nam. Boy, would I like to have some of those seeds.

  7. The old hippie on

    I hear you Bob! I long for that taste too, I caught a hint of dred red in several genetics I have.Only we older smokers had the pleasure of some of the classics of yesterday! Peace and Love to you my friend!!

  8. Yes! I remember redbud! Most people that read this blog are to young to have smoked red bud or red lebanese hash. Fact To this day I have not smoked anything better and I have grown in cali for years and smoked everything. Thanks for the memories!!!

  9. The old Hippie on

    Anybody remember the real colombian redbud? around 1973, 1974. The first bud to be sold for $25 an oz and $300 a pound, I remember the older hippies screaming how over priced it was. If fact it was the strongest weed of the day with an amazing taste, It would make you puke it was so strong, very similar taste to real red lebanese hash of 1973. Oh the memories!

  10. I can say this article hits a nerve…

    I to remember and agree.. Those Hawaii strains in my opinion were the finest on this earth at that time.. I have experiences with all those described and can say the Puna Buds were the best on earth back in 1979… At that time I had Opium laced Chocolate Thai Sticks 6in by 1 in that came very close…
    After the DEA raided two ships loaded with Thia Buds of the cost of Oregon I think it was around 1985… No more Thia was found on this west coast since, until today… Though not as good in my opinion..
    Today, many of us grow our own.. You pick your favorite.. Order the Seeds and grow….

  11. I remeber,tia stick, gold, the dred red.I look for that tastse all the time.Kilo’s 2.2 pounds.Yep brings back lots of good memories.

  12. Great news! I got to try Acapulco Gold once in the late 80’s. Truly unforgettable. A lot of the people I talk to have never heard of it. Little pinner joint lasted 3 days.

    Many of the African and Thai strains have a higher CBD level. I am looking forward to acquiring some of these.

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