Almost as important as the genetic diversification of the cannabis plant is the protection and secured future of the older indigenous strains and the communities they originate from. These landrace and heirloom varieties, like those from Ethiopia, not only contain rare and unique levels of medicinal cannabinoids and terpenes but perhaps are also comprised of something more that cannot be seen, smelled or tested.
Beyond the boutique cannabinoids and uplifting meditation, there is a spiritual essence and a foundational vibration to the landraces of Ethiopia, and the world. Praises due to the Almighty, Mother Nature, our ancestors and elders who paved the road for us to walk. May we continue to honor them through our works and deeds.
Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of humanity. It is Africa’s oldest independent nation, having never been colonized, with a rich and royal history stretching back thousands of years. Traditionally the herb has maintained a more descreet presence in the country, but the roots are actually quite deep. Landrace herb has a long history of spiritual use in and around hidden monasteries throughout Ethiopia. Smoking pipes dated from the 13th century were found near Lalibela Cave and during my time in the country I was humbled to see church paintings with the clear image of the leaf dating from the 5th century. Naturally, as with most places on Earth, the plant has become more prevalent and hybridized in the past several decades, making it more uncommon to come across indigenous varietals.
A year ago this article would look different than it does today, and likely a year from now it would look different still. I am a student of life who will never stop learning, so bare with me while I share what I believe I know.
Landraces are found all over the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they all just appeared there. Most landrace genetics are actually other varietals that have traveled, adapted and developed uniquely in their own respective environments and time. It’s similar to the story of humanity, a multitude of distant relatives.
There are certainly wild landrace cannabis plants that have been growing without the involvement of human interaction, however, the majority of landrace varieties are a harmonious coproduction between man and nature. Our ancestors made important selections back in earlier times, influencing the herbs, fruits and vegetables we consume today.
On my third trip back to the motherland, we made the pilgrimage to Ethiopia. Late one night in the hills of Lalibela, some local seed was placed in my hand. I could say I found the seed, but it found me.
One of the most important duties to fulfill with landrace genetics are their preservation for future generations. Much of the high-grade in Ethiopia is hybridized, more complex in genetic construct than a typical landrace. Similar realities exist all over the world these days where the indigenous landrace and heirlooms of the land are being replaced with the more “up to date” and hype cultivars we also love. For this reason it’s crucial to preserve and protect the genetics of old, the work of our elders, the primary colors of cannabis, from extinction. While no one “owns” a plant, we must continue to highlight and support the communities in which these genetics emanate.
The original seed stock from Ethiopia grew unlike any herb I had ever grown or seen, with bright flowers, long stigmas and the most divine aromas. Some of the females had a more familiar old school scent, but the bulk carried a strong floral/pine/herbal essence more unfamiliar to my ~20+ years of working with the plant, and the flavor carried straight through.
Almost half the population grew with self preservation evolutionary traits, something quite common in nature and also common with landrace sativas. Further test results confirm the presence of THCV, CBC and CBG, a precursor cannabinoid also associated with landrace cannabis. From the original seed stock, pure males and females were selected for the open pollination preservation.
Beyond the physical attributes that we may select for, like yield, trichome production, terpenes or washing capabilities, might there be other characteristics undetected by the five senses that we may unconsciously breed out while selecting? In my heart, these older indigenous varieties have something more to them that cannot been seen or tested.
The landrace varietals of Ethiopia and the world over share a common bond. No modern varietals would exist without landrace strains. From their foundations sprung forth the multitude of cannabis varieties we see today. The reality is that the best opportunities for genetic diversification of the herb lay within the landrace and heirloom building blocks of our beloved plant. As cultivators and seed makers, we honor those who came before, who planted, selected and harvested long before our time, many of whom gave their life to serve people, the almighty, and the plant.