The Oldest Cannabis Landrace Strains

Landrace cannabis strains, the oldest types, originated in the wild of their native regions. Despite beliefs, they can be cultivated and still retain their landrace status if grown under two specific rules.

The Oldest Cannabis Landrace Strains

When we talk about the oldest cannabis strains, we're referring to what are known as landraces. These are the original strains of cannabis that grew in the wild of their native environment. Some also say that a landrace is a type of strain that's untouched by people, but that's not always the case. Even if landrace strains are cultivated, they can still count as one if the grower follows two main rules.

The first rule is that landrace strains must not be deliberately crossbred with other cannabis strains. The moment it does, it no longer counts as a landrace; it’s a hybrid strain. There are some exceptions, such as accidental cross-pollination between two landraces.

The second rule is that if a landrace strain is grown outside of its native geographic location, it doesn't classify as a landrace anymore. Instead, the proper term that should be used is heirloom. It's also why landrace cannabis strains are often named after the place that they're native to, such as Hindu Kush and Durban Poison.

Why are Heirlooms Important?

Why are some modern strains called heirlooms? It’s because the people who grow these old weed strains do it to keep the natural genetics alive. Sometimes, people pass seeds down to those they trust to conserve the genetics of the old strains, becoming an ‘heirloom’ passed down from trusted grower to trusted grower. This continued effort of purists to preserve heirlooms has led to the many new strains of today.

Heirloom strains aren’t stabilized like the ones we have today, which means they can produce phenotypes that can then be bred into new strains. Because of modern strain's stabilized genetics, we can’t do this today.

Although not the best example, Haze is a cannabis sativa strain that, before having its genetics stabilized, produced a phenotype that came into its own, which we know as Purple Haze. That said, we wouldn't have had Haze if David Watson (Sam "The Skunkman") didn’t have Mexican, Colombian, Indian, and Thai heirlooms to give to the Haze Brothers to create Haze.

Hindu Kush

Hindu Kush stands as a classic example of a landrace cannabis strain turned beloved heirloom by many growers today. It originated from the mountain range of its namesake that spans Afghanistan and Pakistan. This indica strain is renowned for its potent effects, boasting flowers with THC levels ranging from 15% to 19%, which leaves consumers feeling relaxed with its soothing buzz. It also carries a flavorful and fragrant mix that combines sour lemons with notes of sandalwood and hashish.

Hindu Kush feminized seeds

Any Cannabis that can take on the harsh conditions of this homeland's climate must be strong. This strain is conditioned to create crystal trichomes coats that protect it from its surroundings.

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Hindu Kush’s allure magnified during the mid-1950s to the late-70s because of the Hippie Trail. It was a huge movement made by backpackers and bohemians who wanted to travel the world as cheaply as possible. But it soon became a way to go on a tour and visit the world's major cannabis and hashish-producing countries.

These adventurers were drawn by the quest for spiritual enlightenment, a deeper connection with nature, and an appetite for good cannabis. Their influx had a significant influence on the demand for weed and hash products in countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, Thailand, and other parts of South Asia that are known for their artisanal hashish production.

But these enthusiastically curious hippies didn't just enjoy the culture and cannabis of these countries; they also brought a bit of it back with them. One of the many souvenirs was the pure indica strain, Hindu Kush. It arrived in the U.S. around the mid-to-late 70s, where it would continue to be available as a beloved cannabis indica heirloom. It was also crossed with other strains to produce many of the hybrid marijuana strains we know and love, such as Mango Kush, OG Kush, and Purple Kush.

Hindu Kush cultivar profile

Plant type 100% indica
THC Up to 18%
CBD Insignificant amount
Difficulty Easy
Climate Indoors | Steppe | Mediterranean
Plant size Average
Vegetative stage 4 to 8 weeks
Flowering time 7 to 8 weeks
Yields 14 to 17 oz per plant
Taste and Smell Earthy | Sweet
Terpenes Humulene | D-Limonene | Caryophyllene | Carene | Beta-Pinene


Similar to Hindu Kush, Afghani or Afghan is another indica landrace variety that grew in the valleys of the Hindu Kush Mountain range. Because of the harsh conditions of its native environment, indica landraces like Afghan and Hindu Kush learned to adapt and now produce hardy plants that can thrive in most climates. Yet it was Afghan that was traditionally cultivated for hashish because it yielded greater amounts of potent flowers than other varieties.

Afghan Feminized Seeds

Afghan is a very popular indica heritage strain that delivers a heavy-bodied high. Afghan seeds grow large, fragrant buds known for their happy, relaxed effect.

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People love Afghani for its euphoric and, deeply relaxing, potent high. But on top of its effects, Afghani also has a strong flavor that many enjoy, blending the taste and smell of hashish with woody and earthy notes. On top of that, it even is available as an autoflower variant.

But the significance of Afghani extends beyond its impressive yields and the potent hash made from it. This is one of few famous landrace strains prized for its genetic makeup, which contributed to the creation of many of the modern hybrids that we have today. Strains like Big Bud, Cheese, and Blueberry wouldn't exist had Afghani not been one of the heirloom souvenirs the Hippie Trail brought back.

Afghan cultivar profile

Plant type 100% indica
THC Up to 20%
CBD Insignificant amounts
Difficulty Easy
Climate Indoors | Continental | Mold Resistant
Plant size Average
Vegetative stage 4 to 8 weeks
Flowering time 8 to 10 weeks
Yields 14 to 21 oz per plant
Taste and Smell Earthy | Herbal | Pungent | Spicy | Sweet | Woody
Effects Euphoric | Happy | Hungry | Relaxed | Sleepy
Terpenes Humulene | Alpha Pinene | Terpinolene | Myrcene | Carene


At the heart of the Himalayas, Nepal offers an idyllic environment for cannabis to grow wildly. With its diverse terrain and the many bodies of water dotting the country, it creates a natural haven where many different varieties of cannabis thrive in the wild.

As with many countries in South Asia that cultivated and produced weed, Nepal naturally became a major Hippie Trail destination during the 60s and 70s, attracting passionate travelers looking to experience the cannabis culture of Nepal. With the influx of tourists came the increased demand for hashish and charas made from the landraces growing in Nepal.

Nepal was most famous for its specialty hand-rolled charas balls. These aptly named Temple Balls were made using one of the world’s oldest traditions of hash making and were unique to Nepal and the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Charas were an integral part of the culture and rituals of the Hindu religion.

Additionally, depending on the region, those balls could be made from sativas, indicas, or even both. Due to Nepal's wide variety of landraces, some cross-pollinated to produce hybrid strains, which could easily end up in Temple Balls. In some cases, the specialty charas would also be made by combining indica and sativa flowers, further adding to the variety of charas tourists found in Nepal. 

Like the Temple Balls, Nepal landraces– particularly the Nepalese sativa landrace strains - became culturally significant in the 70s. Without it, we wouldn't have strains like Harlequin and Sweet Tooth. Some growers have also theorized that Chemdawg, the notorious strain with a lineage nobody can pin down, is also a cross of Thai and Nepali sativa landraces. If that’s true, those 13 seeds Gregory Krzanowski got from the Grateful Dead Concert likely came from landraces that traveled from South Asia to Oklahoma.

Maui Wowie

When it comes to talking about the oldest weed strains, there's no way I wasn't going to include Hawaii and its rich history of cannabis. Known for their lush landscapes and unique microclimates, the Hawaiian islands nurtured a variety of cannabis landraces such as Maui Wowie, Kona Gold, Kauai Electric, and Molokai Frost. These strains were enjoyed by the people of Hawaii and its tourists, particularly Maui Wowie, for its flavorful and fragrant smoke that blends tropical fruits like pineapples and mangoes. There are also effects of this sativa landrace to love, which leaves many feeling euphoric and energized.

Maui Wowie Feminized Seeds

Maui Wowie seeds come straight from the Hawaiian Islands and is widely used as a stress reliever that sends its users' minds to the imaginary beaches of its native land.

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Cannabis, or "pakalolo" as it was called (literally meaning "numbing tobacco"), was also cultivated by Hawaiian residents, either to enjoy for themselves or to sell to fellow enthusiasts. There was even a high demand for pakalolo outside of Hawaii, which was why cannabis was considered a cash crop similar to pineapple and sugar by many Hawaiian residents.

However, the 70s marked a challenging period for the cannabis industry in Hawaii because of Operation Green Harvest. This government-issued patrol operation positioned police in helicopters to locate cannabis plants and either spray chemicals to kill them or send officers down to uproot it.

Operation Green Harvest lasted until the 2000s, but the damage had been done by then. The majority of people stopped cultivating cannabis because it was too risky, which led to many landraces like Maui Wowie either becoming endangered or extinct. It's why there's not a lot of information regarding Hawaiian landraces.

So, if you love the flavor, effects, or even just the history of Hawaiian landraces, consider preserving them by growing Maui Wowie.

Maui Wowie cultivar profile

Plant type 20% indica 80% sativa
THC Up to 20%
CBD Insignificant amount
Difficulty Easy
Climate Indoors | Temperate
Plant size Tall
Vegetative stage 4 to 8 weeks
Flowering time 9 to 10 weeks
Yields 14 to 17 oz per plant
Taste and Smell Pineapple
Effects Energetic
Terpenes Myrcene | D-Limonene | Caryophyllene | Beta-Pinene | Valencene

Durban Poison

Durban Poison is a sativa landrace strain native to the South African city of its namesake. Interestingly enough, it wasn't David Watson, Nevil Shoenmakers, or even Ben Dronkers who brought this strain to Holland. Instead, the strain was introduced by a coffee shop run by South Africans who imported cannabis from South Africa.

Durban Poison Feminized Seeds

Durban Poison is a pure sativa named after its city of origin: Durban, South Africa. Despite its name, it is a delightful strain that gives the user energy, joy, and creativity.

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But it wouldn't be until the late 1970s that Durban Poison would start its history as one of the most famous landrace strains with the help of cannabis activist and horticulturist Edward Rosenthal. After taking an interest, he 'discovered' the marijuana strain and was impressed, not by its effects, but by how fast it grew and flowered.

Rosenthal would procure some of the South African seeds for himself and give some to Mel Frank, a fellow botanist. Frank then gave some of the seeds to David Watson, who took time stabilizing the genetics of Durban Poison to remove the unwanted intersex characteristics that the landrace possessed. From David's hands, the refined seeds of Durban Poison were then passed to the hands of Nevil Shoenmaker, who then put up Durban Poison for sale in his Holland Seed Bank.

From there, this landrace turned heirloom sativa became internationally known. It is loved for its energizing and euphoric high and distinct flavor and aroma, which blends licorice with black pepper and citrus notes. Currently it is even available in autoflower, decades after the original first hit the market.

Durban Poison cultivar profile

Plant type 100% sativa
THC Up to 20%
CBD Insignificant amount
Difficulty Easy
Climate Indoors | Steppe | Mediterranean
Plant size Compact
Vegetative stage 4 to 8 weeks
Flowering time 7 to 9 weeks
Yields 14 to 18 oz per plant
Taste and Smell Cheese | Citrus | Earthy | Fruity | Skunky | Sweet
Effects Euphoric | Happy | Relaxed | Sleepy | Uplifted
Terpenes Humulene | Terpinolene | Myrcene | D-Limonene | Ocimene

Colombian Gold

This Colombian landrace may be the oldest marijuana strain you can find written information on. The classic strain originated in the Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta or the snowy mountain range of Santa Marta. There, the pure sativa had to adapt to the high humidity, strong winds, and downpours that its native climate had.

Initially, the Colombian landrace was cultivated only for its industrial fibers. Locals were aware of its psychoactive effects but rarely indulged in it and were discouraged from doing so. However, recreational use for Colombian Gold soon emerged around the 1920s in the bustling seaport of Barranquilla.

By the 1960s, hippies, American tourists, and strain hunters stumbled upon Colombian Gold and brought it back with them. From there, Colombian Gold became the most prized weed strain in the U.S. during the 70s. It is loved for its potent high, and unique flavor profile that mixes skunky with lemon and lime citrus notes.

Colombian Gold also became the foundation for many of the hybrids we enjoy today and other classic strains like the famous Skunk #1, which David Watson made by crossing Acapulco Gold with Colombian Gold. Strains like Harlequin and AK-47 also wouldn't exist without Colombian Gold.