What's the Difference between Heirloom and Landrace Strains?

What's the Difference between Heirloom and Landrace Strains?

Published on 1/27/23

We're spilled a lot of digital ink here at Where's Weed digging into the nitty gritty of the overall legal cannabis industry. We've touched on how much it's worth, its potential for growth over both the long and the short term, and even dug deep into stuff like the difference between indica and sativa, the best strains to puff on before exercising, or even how to stay slim and avoid the munchies after a heavy smoke session. Today, however, we're going to deep-dive into a more niche and specific section of the global legal cannabis industry, the heirloom strain!

For the experienced cannabis aficionado or home grower out there, you may ask yourself, "Well, what is the difference between landrace strains and heirloom strains?" That's likely because you're already super familiar with landrace seeds and strains (something we've covered extensively before here at Where's Weed), but there's actually more to learn here in this regard!

In this piece, we'll start by covering and digging deep into the origins of strains and how landrace strains came to be, then go over what exactly Heirloom strains are. Once we answer the question, "what is a landrace strain," we'll then compare and contrast the subtle but important differences between landrace strains and heirloom strains. We'll even provide a top-notch heirloom strains list to keep your eyes peeled for the next time you stop by your local dispensary, seed databases, or anything else cannabis-related!

What Are Landrace and Heirloom Strains?


Before we dig deep into what exactly an heirloom strain is, how they're defined, and how they're unique from landrace strains, we here at Where's Weed think it's super-valuable to define our terms. With that in mind, let's provide a refresher on what landrace strains are in the first place!

As we've covered here before, a landrace strain is a specially evolved, naturally bred, and crafted cannabis strain that's unique to its specific environmental factors. What makes landrace strains special from your standard lab-grown or human-cultivated cannabis strain is that landrace strains are shaped by nature.

That's why there are landrace strains from all corners of the globe based on their different geology, climates, and additional growing conditions. Some primary examples are the rugged indicas from the mountains of India, the hot-blooded sativas from warm, wet, tropical climates like Jamaica, Africa, and Thailand, or the well-balanced North American hybrids full of intriguing terpenes and cannabinoids like those of Canada or Mexico.

Heirloom strains, on the other hand, differ from landrace strains in a couple of key, specific ways. As their name would suggest, heirloom strains are considered to be living time capsules for the legal cannabis industry. These strains are often preserved and protected over a long period of time, saving and popularizing them over generations for decades for cannabis users to use and enjoy! Typically, an heirloom strain earns that title after being passed down and preserved for about 50 years. Five decades is a long time for anything, let alone a cannabis strain!

But how exactly are these strains preserved and protected? Especially today, when the climate is changing rapidly and massive stretches of wildlife are naturally occurring, cannabis strains could grow and evolve over time. Protecting those strains means ensuring they end up somewhere they can safely be protected and breed for future generations. That brings us to the second key aspect of how and why heirloom strains are unique. Heirloom strains are taken from their original natural geographic location and relocated elsewhere.

The basic idea is breeders take these heirloom strains somewhere safe where they can be bred, protected, and preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The Core Difference Between Heirloom Strains and Landrace Strains

With all of that in mind, heirloom and landrace strains are basically the same thing, right? Well, not exactly. The core differences between the two lie in the way that humans do or don't interact with them.

Landrace strains, for example, are often entirely untouched by man. They're bred by the environment they're growing in and the climate they're experiencing and have specific characteristics like their cannabinoid and terpene content adaptive to their environment. On the other hand, heirloom strains survive, prosper, and are preserved for future generations by human intervention. That intervention doesn't always include changing or crossbreeding the strain, but sometimes it does.

So, in short, the core difference lies in the environment they're grown in. Landrace strains tend to stay where they're from, while heirloom strains become transplants to ensure they live on and can be enjoyed by future generations.

The Advantages of Each Strain Type

While each of these strains might differ from one another, that just means they have different significant upsides. Since we here at Where's Weed are all about positivity, we wanted to highlight the core upsides for both varieties of these strains!

First up, let's touch on heirloom strains. One of the best things about heirloom strains is that they preserve history and make the world smaller. While it might not be realistic for every stoner to hop on a flight and explore the snowy mountains of Afghanistan or tropical jungles of Thailand for their top-notch region-specific strains, heirloom streams give them access to it right from their own backyard or spare bedroom-based grow room.

Especially in the age of a post-COVID world and the prices for things not exactly getting lower anytime soon, it's not reasonable to assume every single inquisitive stoner could take a trip along the incredibly popular "Hippie Trail." Instead, they can save the money they would have spent on a flight, lodgings, and travel guides and spend it on some seeds from a seed bank instead and grow the same cannabis they'd get overseas in the comfort of their own home!

On top of that, heirloom strains are often regarded as the purest and most stable cannabis consumption experience. Due to the strains being preserved and protected by growers and seed banks for generations, cannabis users have spent a lot of time gathering data and understanding how and why these strains work the way they do. Newer hybrid strains, on the other hand, can often be unstable and unpredictable when it comes to their effects. For newer cannabis users and medical users, predicting the way they'll react to it is an absolute must!

Now let's touch on some landrace strain advantages, shall we?

When it comes to landrace strains, the key advantage lies in their superpowered terpenes and cannabinoid effects. Due to landrace strains being born and bred in the ideal environment, the terpene and cannabinoid profiles are top-notch. They're in the ideal setting for them and their needs, making them the perfect strains for those looking to ride the high of the entourage effect!

Examples of Heirloom Strains

Now that we've dug deep into both types' differences, pros, and cons, it's only natural to provide some examples of each. Thankfully, we've got your back, as always!

Best Heirloom Strains

OG Kush

Possibly the most popular and well-known cannabis strain of all time, this top-notch strain is not only a fantastic landrace strain but a lovely choice for anyone and everyone. Averaging around 20 percent THC, this cannabis strain packs a powerful punch. When it comes to heirloom strains, this one is close to the cream of the crop!

Amnesia Haze

This award-winning heirloom strain is well known for its strong sativa nature, buzzy head high, and fragrant, citrusy aromas. Plain and simply put, this strain is the perfect wake-n-bake companion to get you up and going in the mornings. So if you're on the hunt for a buzzy Sativa-dominant heirloom strain, then look no further!

Jack Herer

Named after the iconic legal cannabis advocate, this heirloom strain has a little bit of something for everyone. With a rich THC content, and earthy, spicy flavors and aromas, you can't go wrong with this strain. It has a terpene-rich profile that features limonene and linalool. This iconic heirloom strain offers something for everyone, whether they're cannabis industry newbies, OG smokers who have been buying and puffing for years, or someone who falls somewhere in between. Simply put, this is a great strain to get your hands on!

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Joe Evans
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