Thai Landrace Strains: The Origins of Cannabis in Thailand
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The marijuana flowers we see in dispensaries today are entirely different from what was available in the 1960s and 70s. People in those days made do with weed grown outdoors, in the wild, or at homes without special equipment. Charlotte’s Haze, Blue Dream, Amnesia, White Widow – these luxuries were not available back then. So you may ask yourself – how is it that these strains came to be today? The answer lies in landrace cannabis.
Landrace cannabis refers to marijuana plants grown in the wild for years without breeding with other strains. They are native to particular geographies, and care is taken not to ‘dilute’ them through cross-breeding.
As you will see below, landrace strains form the origins of many weed flowers we see today. Particularly, Thai Landrace strains are also responsible for blessing the world with iconic strains like Haze, Blueberry, AK-47, and more.
Understanding landrace weed
Landrace cannabis is the original weed; their genetics are pure as they are not crossbred with other varieties. They are considered pure Sativas, but some Indica landraces also exist.
These plants, naturally grown in different locations outdoors, have adapted to the local conditions and environment over time. With each generation, the plant becomes better adjusted to its particular surroundings. Through the years, if no other weed strains pollinate the landraces, it begins to develop physical and chemical characteristics that separate it from other cannabis plants worldwide. As time passes, the genetic markers lock themselves in the plant’s DNA and pass it on fully to the next generations. Any future hybrids bred from the landrace will also have these genes.
That’s why some landrace strains thrive in cold and dark, while others, like Thai, do better in hot and sunny weather. It results from long, painful natural selection that has taken hundreds of years. There is no human touch in this process – except for harvesting. All other traits like terpenes, cannabinoid profile, aroma, and taste are imparted by nature. That’s why it is important to preserve landrace cannabis.
These landrace strains are sought-after due to their ‘purity.’ Since these strains are grown in the wild without mixing or using advanced techniques, breeders can select specific landrace strains and cross them with other hybrids to create more flowers with a broad spectrum of features.
Thai landrace strains
Cannabis has a rich and diverse history in Thailand. It came from India long ago and has since become an integral part of the local cultures. People all over the country have used ‘ganja’ for spiritual and medicinal purposes, and the recent legalisation of cannabis has only opened up this path further.
Thai landrace strains are a collection of cannabis flowers grown by local communities and tribes in Thailand. Given the diverse geography of Thailand, cannabis has had to adapt to different climates, conditions, and traditional growing techniques.
For example, in the Golden Triangle, cannabis cultivation was influenced by tribal practices from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Yunnan Province of China. Similarly, the eastern part of Thailand – notably Sakon Nakhon Province – saw cannabis practices influenced by Laos and the Thai communities. As you move south, the Tenasserim range and the Gulf of Thailand have had their own say in local landraces.
The end result is the world-famous ‘Thai’ weed that carries a strong kick, distinct tastes, and unique physical characteristics.
In a way, these strains represent the culture and diversity of Thai people. The ability of Thai people to harvest potent weed without any modern advancements is a testimony to their passion and understanding of this plant.
Thai landrace strains are pure Sativa flowers and form the basis of several cannabis hybrid buds available today.
Squirrel Tail cannabis strain is named so because the flowers – you guessed it – looks like a squirrel’s tail. The term was coined by Lao speakers in Isan and Laos, who used it to describe a squirrel-like traditional weaving pattern.
A few varieties of Squirrel Tail landraces in Thailand come from the Sakhon Nakhon, Songkhla, and Chiang Mai provinces. All of them have large bushy flowers with a high THC content.
These landrace strains come from the Northern Tenasserim region, originally grown by Karen villagers. Over the years, it has adapted to the local environment; nowadays, it is among the four cannabis strains with a Heritage listing in Thailand.
Here’s a fun fact – Thailand is among the leading mango exporters in the world. This is why it is not surprising to see a dedicated landrace to ‘mango’ strains. Known as Thai Mango, these strains are rich in terpene myrcene, which gives these flowers their fruity, earthy scent. These landraces are concentrated in the hilly regions of Chiang Mai province, where regional tribes have grown this weed for decades.
Ko Chang is among the few Thai landrace strains from the islands.
This landrace is found in Koh Chang, located in the Gulf of Thailand, featuring old-school rainforests and rugged mountains. These prime conditions, combined with the constant influx of tourists – have empowered locals to grow world-class cannabis throughout the year.
In addition, there are a few other landrace strains in Thailand worth a mention:
- Chocolate Thai
- Lemon Thai
- Tiger Tail
- Wild Thai
Government-approved Thai strains
Cannabis was decriminalised in Thailand for medicinal research and tapping into the plant’s therapeutic potential.
In 2021, the government registered four cannabis strains as National Heritage to promote their research and medicinal use. These are pure Thai landrace strains cultivated in the country.
The Medicinal Plant Research Institute, under the Department of Medical Sciences, was approved by the Thai Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to plant and study these flowers.
Hang Kra Rog Phu Phan ST1
This landrace strain is the Squirrel Tail variety we saw above. Hang Kra Rok literally translates into squirrel tail, which is what these large, bushy flowers look like.
The ST1 variant has an equal amount of THC and CBD. It boasts a rich fruity scent like mangoes and is not as skunky as your regular, potent cannabis.
Hang Suea Sakon Nakhon TT1
This is a particularly strong Thai strain, featuring more THC than CBD. It is much more pungent than the ST1 variety, packing a rubber-like smell with hints of orange. This skunky odour is also an indication of the weed’s potency – strong and powerful.
As the name suggests, this Sativa flower comes from the Sakon Nakhon region – home to several landrace weed plants.
Tanaosri Kan Khaw WA1
WA1 is among the weaker Thai Sativa strains. It has some THC and can be considered a mix of TT1 and ST1. The flowers smell like orange and lemongrass but are not as pungent as other strains in this list. It has a mild, relaxing high – not too overwhelming, but just enough to get the job done.
Tanaosri Kan Daeng RD1
Tanaosri Kan Daeng RD1 is a CBD strain, making it well-suited for those who want to benefit from marijuana – without getting too high. There is some THC for the entourage effect, but the higher CBD content keeps the experience well-balanced and mild. It has a pleasant aroma and a lively appearance with red hair.
Characteristics of Thai strains
The climate of Thailand is a tropical one which brings with it plenty of sun, rain, and humidity. It is precisely why Thai landrace cannabis flowers are believed to be pure Sativas, as this variety thrives in such climates.
Thai Sativa strains can be as tall as 6 metres. Since plenty of sunlight is available throughout the year, the plants take their time to grow and produce buds – a process that can take 14-20 weeks. Unlike Indica strains, they do not have to worry about cooling temperatures or shorter days – thus enjoying all the freedom to bloom freely.
The flowers are airy and concentrated to handle the humidity and hot temperatures, while the leaves tend to roll around the buds to protect them from the sun.
Depending on where they are grown, Thai landrace strains can have two aromatic profiles: floral & fruity and earthy & chocolatey.
Thai strains became famous because of their cerebral, energising effects. It prompted breeders to use these varieties as the basis for more Sativa-dominant hybrids.
During the Vietnam War, the Thai Sticks that American soldiers took back home were made with these landrace strains. It is believed these had over 10% THC – far more than what the Americans were growing at the time. It is also why these sticks were smuggled in large quantities to the US – they were stronger than anything else back then.
Global landrace strains
Originating in Asia over 3,000 years ago, cannabis spread globally through commerce and travel over time. Local communities in different parts of the world started harvesting cannabis, but much of it was lost in the sands of time.
The Hippie Trail in the 1960s saw Western travellers bring cannabis seeds from the Indian subcontinent to Europe, America, and elsewhere where more landrace strains popped up. It wasn’t just Thailand, which was in a landrace.
All in all, below are some of the common landrace strains from across the globe.
- Afghani: Originating in Afghanistan, the Afghan/Afghani landrace strain is known for its heavy resin production – which is vital in making hash. It is thought to be pure Indica and has strong pain-relieving and sedating properties.
- Hindu Kush: This landrace cannabis is similar to Afghani but has more diverse roots; it comes from the Hindu Kush mountain range – spanning 800 kilometres. The strain is highly cold-resistant and is highly sought after for its Indica properties and hash production.
- Acapulco Gold: This is a pure Sativa from regions surrounding Acapulco, Mexico. It looks like a gold nugget with orange and red hair.
- Durban Poison: One of the few pure landrace strains, Durban Poison comes from Durban, South Africa. It has a broad range of tastes and aromas, which keeps people coming back for more.
Features of landrace strains
A few things make landrace cannabis flowers stand out from their modified cousins.
- Landrace strains have distinct physical characteristics (morphologies) like leaf size, colour, flowering patterns, and length.
- Through years of consistent cultivation, landrace strains can grow comfortably in the conditions of the local environment. The plant has genetically adapted to its surroundings and can withstand climate, disease, pests, and local agricultural practices.
- Landrace strains are completely natural and open-pollinated; unlike hybrids, they are not interfered with in any manner. There are no breeding programs, selection, or improvement practices to enhance the yield or quality of these strains. Landrace strains come as they are – fully natural.
- They are grown in geographic isolation from the rest of the world.
- Landrace strains will have unique local names and histories, depending on where they are grown.
- They are weaker and less potent than hybrids. This is because hybrids are grown deliberately to have a stronger high, while landrace strains are dictated purely by nature. However, they do have a well-rounded cannabinoid and terpene profile that gives a wholesome, holistic experience.
- Genetic testing of landrace strains will likely show more homogenous traits than heterogeneous ones.
All the hybrids and other strains that you see today have their roots in these (and other) landrace strains. Breeders from different corners of the world intentionally crossed these cannabis flowers to produce offspring with specific effects, taste, smell, terpene, and potency.
Here are a few examples:
- The iconic Blueberry strain is a hybrid of Thai, Chocolate Thai, and Purple Thai.
- Purple Thai – a Sativa-dominant hybrid – is the result of crossing Highland Oaxacan Gold with Chocolate Thai.
- Haze, also known as Original Haze or OG Haze, has its roots in landrace strains from Thailand, India, Mexico, and Colombia.
- Amnesia Haze is another hybrid with roots in Thai landrace strains and varieties from Afghanistan and Hawai.
The hybrids were then crossbred, giving rise to more hybrids which were then crossbred further, thus flooding the market with hundreds of strains globally.
Thai landrace strains used to be a rarity. However, with weed now legal, local growers want to reignite the interest in ‘pure,’ original weed.
At Weed Review, you will find a list of legal cannabis dispensaries specialising in Thai landrace flowers. These may not be as potent as the hybrids and other famous varieties, but they have a touch of ancient history – making them worth a try.
What is the difference between heirloom strains and landrace strains?
When you take landrace strains away from their native habitat to a different location, they become heirloom strains. There is no real difference except the change in geographies.
What are cultivars?
Cultivars are cannabis flowers bred to produce desirable effects with specific cannabinoid concentrations, terpenes profile, aromas, and tastes. They are a result of selective breeding, careful human intervention, and modern growing techniques.
Are landrace strains better or stronger?
Landrace strains are not “better” than modern strains, in-fact they often have less THC than modern strains. But they do have less diluted DNA and are considered the source of that region’s specific strains.
Are all landrace strains in Thailand sativas?
Yes, you will only find sativas in Thailand due to the hot climate here.