What are landrace cannabis strains?

What are landrace cannabis strains?
Miguel Antonio Ordoñez

Most cannabis strains have been botanically engineered to suit specific desires. A landrace strain though has been developed under influence of nature alone.

Almost all of the cannabis sold today, from Californian dispensaries to Dutch coffeeshops and British backstreets, is from selectively bred strains that would not exist without human hands playing a role.

However all of these strains have their roots firmly placed in the marijuana motherland of central Asia in the form of landrace cannabis strains. A landrace plant is a strain of cannabis developed solely under the influence of nature alone.

These indigenous crops were left undisturbed in isolation for extremely long periods of time. During this patient process they developed unique characteristics and stability that are a direct result of adaptation to their environmental location.


The first cannabis plants are believed to have been forged by evolution within central Asia. Natural dispersal and human intervention saw that these original landrace strains started to migrate to other areas of the world, therefore landrace strains can be found on the continents of South America and Africa and also in the countries of Jamaica and Russia.

These ancestor plants are indeed the original cannabis. We have them to thank for the high grade THC strains bred for the optimum recreational highs and medically potent strains manipulated to output the maximum amount of CBD that are well known and sought after today. These strains have all been botanically engineered overtime by growers to suit specific desires.

This transition from a wild species into a domesticated one is comparable to certain cultivars of food we are familiar with today in contrast to their genetic ancestors. For example what we now know as a banana has been cultivated and selectively bred over thousands of years, resulting in the sweetness and caloric density of modern varieties.

Its original form was a mere pod densely packed with seeds. What we now know as a watermelon is indeed a domesticated form of a wild melon, a fruit with far more seeds and far less flesh. The same is true with the cannabis plant.


The absolutely massive catalogue of modern strains are the result of worldwide growers and marijuana fanatics obtaining landrace genetics via seeds in the 1960s and 70s on a journey that came to be known as the "Hippie Trail".

This pilgrimage ran through certain prime landrace territories such as Afghanistan, Kashmir and Nepal. This resulted in the creation of "heirloom" strains when landrace genetics were cultivated in both Northern California and Hawaii.

Cannabis genetics can be thought of as a clay to which the environment is the sculptor. The introduction of landrace genes into different natural outdoor and synthetic indoor environments across the world, all with endlessly varying environmental factors such as humidity, soil type, lighting and fertility have resulted in a vast array of genetic adaptations. Not to mention intense selective breeding and hybridisation.


Modern man-made strains are no doubt superior in many different areas due to their newfound environments and human input. That said there is still a lot of appreciation for landrace strains that have been perfected to withstand their environments of origin.

For example the documentary series Strain Hunters was birthed out of the idea of landrace identification and preservation in the name of science and medicine.

Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
Miguel Antonio Ordoñez

Miguel Ordoñez is a long-time writer by trade. Utilizing his AB Mass Media and Communications degree, he has 13 years of experience and counting. He’s covered a wide array of topics, with passion lying in combat sports, mental health, and of course, cannabis.