The Origins of the White Widow Cannabis Strain

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Probably, the most well known cannabis strain in the world today, White Widow has gained global popularity thanks to countless awards since its release in 1994. Regularly used to make new hybrids, White Widow is extremely potent and is available at almost every seedbank in the world. Learn more about the origins of this famous strain here.

White Widow is without a doubt one of the most successful commercialized cannabis strains on the market today. Perhaps that is also why its history is so problematic. This most famous plant has since its birth in 1994 won a number of awards, including first price in the 1995 High Times Cannabis Cup. Known to be highly resinous and extremely potent, the plant has the ability to humble even the most experienced smoker and has been used in the making of countless new hybrids, always improving on quality.

The name White Widow is usually linked with several different breeders and today almost every seed bank offers its own version of the plant. The battle over who actually invented the strain has turned into a political struggle, dividing the public into two camps. Some believe that the White Widow was discovered by a man named Ingemar, while others take the side of another skillful breeder known as Shantibaba. Although the history of this plant is complicated and shrouded by doubt and misinformed opinions, the truth must be that only one person can be accredited with bringing White Widow into the world. My research has lead me to believe that this person is indeed Shantibaba, the former co-owner of Greenhouse Seeds and current founder of The Mr Nice Seedbank, for reasons that I will explain in this article.

Mr Nice Black Widow

The White Widow strain was first released to the public by Shantibaba, shortly after he founded the Green House Seed Company in 1994 with a Dutch partner named Arjan. The pedigree of this famous sativa/indica hybrid is made up of a pure Brazilian sativa mother and a South Indian, Keralan hybrid father. The exact origins of the mother plant remains somewhat of a mystery but the most educated guess is that it could possibly be the old school, Brazilian landrace Manga Rosa, which has a long history of spiritual use. The Father was discovered during a trip to India where Shantibaba was approached by a man, who after sharing a joint with him, eventually led him to his farm in the mountains of Kerala. The farmer then introduced him to an indica hybrid that had been selectively cultivated and bred towards optimum resin production in his village for a very long time. After several days of sampling the farmer’s plants, Shantibaba left for the Netherlands with a batch of fresh seeds, from which he was soon to discover the male for his White Widow cross. He eventually bred it to the Brazilian Sativa mother, forming the spectacular White Widow.

During the time when Shantibaba was still the co-owner of Green House Seeds, he established several new and superior hybrids while working alongside Neville Schoenmaker (the father of Dutch seed banks) on joint projects. Some of the stock that they used dated back to the early days of the Seed Bank that Neville himself had founded, a company that later became reformed under new ownership and known as Sensi Seeds. During the time when the White Widow was created, Shantibaba and Neville concentrated on the breeding aspect of the business while Arjan, not being a breeder himself, was left in charge of promotion and sales. After some conflict of interests between the two owners, Shantibaba sold his half of the Green House Seed Company to Arjan in 1998 and left for Switzerland to form the Mr Nice Seedbank in collaboration with Howard Marks and Neville Schoenmaker. Dispensing with the somewhat theatrical tactics of his former partner turned competitor, the master breeder Shantibaba then concentrated on supplying growers with superior quality strains from both old and new world genetics. The exceptional quality of his products can hardly be disputed by anyone. He started breeding the Widow under the flag of his newly formed brand and gave it the name Black Widowsince the name White Widow was already being marketed by Arjan over at Green House Seeds.

Mr Nice Black Widow

According to an interview for the German cannabis magazine Grow; a breeder named Ingemar is also accredited with inventing the White Widow strain. This is where the history of the plant becomes problematic. Ingemar was apparently working on some strains for the Green House Seed Company in the past, much like he is now, and he quite possibly had a hand in developing the White Widow strain but apparently not in discovering it. He seems to have substantial support from the Dutch growing community but there is little in terms of historical data to support his claim. Ingemar says that the seeds for the White Widow hybrid were accidentally found in a batch of hand rubbed hashish and that the strain was then worked on for some six years before it was released. If this is true, the birth of the Widow can be dated back as early as 1988, although there are no records to confirm this. The earliest descriptions on the White Widow were made by Shantibaba himself in 1995, while he was still working under the Green House flag. The lineage stated for the White Widow is also in accordance with what Shantibaba says. This would indicate that the genetic material that was used to create the White Widow originated from the stock found at the Green House Seed Company at the time, stock that Shantibaba and Neville had obtained and refined. Ingemar has not to this day disclosed any detailed information on the Widow or provided any proof that the plant indeed came from him, besides his own words. The degree of his involvement in the making of this highly regarded strain might never reach the light of day without further investigation.

Shantibaba on the other hand has been quite open about the origin of this wonderful plant. He also seems very familiar with both the Widow and its parents. Going by the line of reasoning that I have chosen here, one thing seems to remain undisputable, and that is that Shantibaba is in possession of the only true parents of the White Widow strain now in existence. This would make sense if he also discovered the strain. The parents of his creation are safely tucked away in the MNS clone library. This also indicates that he alone is capable of reproducing the hybrid that was initially released some 15 years ago. In other words, most other Widows must be founded on progeny that originates further down the line and they are also most likely out crossed with something else. Further evidence to support this theory comes from the plant itself. The plant from The Mr Nice Seedbank seems to have the most in common with the White Widow that the Green House Seeds Company entered into the Cannabis Cup in 1995. Ingemar offers his own version of the White Widow and several White Widow hybrids, like the notoriously potent Ingemar’s Punch, through the DeSjamaan seed bank and the White Widow Web. He is also working closely with Arjan over at Green House Seeds, supplying him with genetic material which include the allegedly one and only true White Widow strain. As wonderfully potent as it might be, the authenticity and genetic makeup of this parallel version of the Widow will remain a mystery until we are enlightened by Ingemar himself. His substantial contribution to the varieties offered by the Green House Seed Company should, however, not go unnoticed.

Howard Marks sampling crops at Mr Nice Seedbank

Shantibaba discovered many of his strains while working under the Green House label but apparently never shared the parental stock of his strains with anyone. Nevertheless, the Green House Seed Company still offers many of his and Neville’s strains, claiming that they are the real deal. Most notable of these strains are the White Widow (Black Widow), White Rhino (Medicine Man), Great White Shark (Shark Shock), El Nino (La Niña), Neville’s Haze and Super Silver Haze. Not without a sense of irony, many of these plants have accumulated an impressive amount of awards for the Green House Seed Company over the years. The fact however remains that all these plants can be traced back to the original breeders Shantibaba and Neville, who in an attempt to avoid confusion, renamed some of their strains. Sadly, despite their efforts, confusion and contradiction ensued and even more breeders emerged, claiming to have invented the White Widow strain. The Green House Seeds Company has not been as active in developing new, and reinforcing old strains, as Shantibaba. Their focus seems to have shifted towards feminizing their old stock.

Today almost every breeder and seed bank sell seeds that they claim to be the original White Widow. In 1996, both the Nirvana and Dutch Passion seed companies purchased a single pack of White Widow seeds from Shantibaba himself at the Green House Seed Company and within a year released their own versions of the Widow. Undoubtedly all very potent and nice plants, the question whether or not all the White Widow plants on the market today can actually be considered pure remains highly speculative since the only true parental stock remain in the sole care of Shantibaba and the Mr Nice Seedbank. Why so many different breeders claim to have personally invented this strain is puzzling although understandable due to its commercial success. New breeders keep emerging, claiming authority over the White Widow strain. There can, however, be only one truth, however hazy it has become over the years.

Indica vs Sativa

Indica vs. Sativa: Know Your Cannabis Subspecies

With more than 1,000 strains of cannabis having been bred during the past several decades, it is critical that patients are aware of the different types of efficacy available to them in terms of cannabis medicine. Some varieties of cannabis are most appropriate for particular diseases and ailments, but not others. Choosing the right strain is critical to ensuring that patients receive the best therapy possible.

Cannabis is a species of flowering herb that is split into three subspecies: Indica, sativa, and ruderalis. Ruderalis plants are small and yield relatively little medicine; what they do provide lacks potency and is generally not appealing to patients. Because of this, ruderalis strains are typically avoided by breeders and cultivators; the focus of the medical cannabis community is on indica and sativa strains.

Indica and sativa plants differ not only in their physiological effects, but also in their appearance. Indica plants are short and stocky, featuring leaves that are broad and “chunky.” Sativa plants tend to be taller and skinnier and may even be lanky in appearance, with leaves that are thin and pointed.

Infographic comparing sativa and indica strains.

Medical Efficacy

The most important difference between these two subspecies of cannabis, however, is in their medical effects and how they influence energy levels and productivity. Indicas tend to decrease energy and are better for consumption in the evening or at night, after the conclusion of the day’s work and activities. Potent indica strains may give some patients what is called “couchlock,” a condition in which they become so relaxed that they care barely get up from the sofa.

Sativas, on the other hand, are uplifting and cerebral, enhancing creativity and productivity. Indicas provide what has been called a “body high,” while sativas deliver more of a “mind high.” Unfortunately, sativa plants require longer to grow and yield less medicine (flowers) than indica varieties. This is why indica strains have traditionally dominated those available on the black market, where there is no concern for patient need and the sole focus is profit.

The fact that patients are given no choice of subspecies or strain when purchasing from the black market is a major reason it should be avoided. Patients should never trust or consume cannabis medicine without knowing its exact strain and that it was properly grown, dried, cured, and laboratory tested for purity and potential contamination.

Modern cultivators of medical cannabis purposefully breed and grow a wide spectrum of strains within both the indica and sativa categories for the purpose of making available the right medicine for a particular patient’s unique combination of disease, preference, and lifestyle. Often, patients must maintain jobs or family responsibilities that demand a particular energy level and can’t tolerate the sedative properties of many indicas. Other times, patients must seek the most potent non-opiate painkiller possible. Given the choice of chronic pain or the mellowing effects of a strong indica of a particular strain known for its medical benefits, most patients will choose the latter.

Because cultivators and dispensaries are sensitive to the subjective efficacy of particular strains for different patients, they grow and make available as many strains as possible for targeted ailments. Major conditions of focus include HIV/AIDS, cancer, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, Parkinson’s, all types of arthritis, and epilepsy, among many others.

In terms of particular ailments, sativa strains tend to be better for psychological disorders like depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Indicas are often the best for pain and inflammation and, thus, are beneficial for patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and cancer. However, because so many diseases are accompanied by side effects like depression and insomnia, a patient must consider treating both their core disease and also its daily symptoms. In the end, each patient will favor multiple strains that will likely fall within the categories of sativa, hybrid, and indica.

When it comes to aroma, indica strains tend to emit musty, earthy, and skunky odors, while sativas smell sweet, fruity, or spicy. This difference in aroma is the result of terpenes, the molecules within the plant that are cousins to cannabinoids like THC and CBD. While these chemicals provide sometimes stunningly pungent odors, their greatest benefit to patients is actually their medicinal efficacy.

Understanding Hybrids

Hybrids are simply new and unique strains that are bred from parents of different types. A hybrid theoretically possesses many or most of the beneficial medical properties of both its parents. Breeders can “cross” any two strains they desire in an effort to create a new strain that delivers the best possible medical efficacy, sometimes for particular diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and epilepsy.

It should be noted that any two strains can be mixed to create a hybrid. While indica/sativa mixes are common and often noted for their “alert mellowness” and productivity, medical cannabis breeders can also mix indicas with other indicas or use two sativas as parents.

With so many hybrid strains available to patients, many are a compromise that possess the ability to kill pain and fight inflammation while not putting a patient to sleep in the middle of the day. Patients who must medicate in the morning or mid-day, typically for nausea and pain, often prefer a sativa-dominant hybrid, but will switch to an indica-dom strain in the evenings and for maximum pain relief.

Hybrid strains that display more indica than sativa traits are labeled “indica-dom,” while those that lean toward sativa are similarly dubbed “sativa-dom.” Often, strains are labeled with a sativa/indica ratio, like a 60/40 sativa/indica. Other times a strain will indicate only a percentage, such as “70 percent indica” or “80 percent sativa”.

Landrace Strains & Heirlooms

Landrace strains are those that evolved naturally within their native environments. Because they weren’t bred and aren’t hybrids, landrace strains offer a very pure example of sativa or indica, with no interference from humans. In fact, landrace strains are typically 100 percent indica or sativa, the result of tens of thousands of years of inbreeding in a particular weather climate and geography.

Heirlooms are landrace strains that have been grown outside of their native environment, such as plants or seeds professionally grown in Illinois that originated on the other side of the world. While sought for their pure indica or sativa characteristics, such strains lose some of their unique characteristics when grown outside the climate in which they evolved.

Examples of landrace strains include Durban Poison, a sativa from South Africa; Afghan Indica, from Afghanistan; Malawi Gold, a sativa from Southeastern Africa; and Panama Red, a sativa from the country that bears its name.

Landrace sativas appear in Asia, Anatolia, and Northern Africa. These climates provide the long summers and intense sun in which such strains have evolved and adapted to thrive. Indicas are located in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Such strains will not reach their potential if grown within indoor or outdoor conditions that don’t match those of their native environment.

Eastern Europe, the Himalayan region of India, and Siberia are home to ruderalis landrace strains and are among the least desired of these naturally evolved plants. Often, as in the Himalayas, such plants are used to create traditional hand-rolled hash, with impoverished villagers in such regions subsisting on black market sales of the concentrate that eventually appears in smoking cafes throughout Europe.

What Determines Sativa or Indica?

Readers have already learned that the sometimes pungent aromas produced by many strains of cannabis are the result of terpenes, the special molecules in the herb that are similar in many respects to cannabinoids like THC and CBD.

While many might guess that a particular strain of cannabis is categorized as indica, sativa, or hybrid based on the presence or absence of a particular cannabinoid, or a cannabinoid in a particular volume, it is actually a terpene that determines this important status of a strain.

Myrcene, the most common terpene in cannabis, is known to help patients sleep, battling conditions like anxiety and insomnia. If present in a specific strain in a volume greater than 0.5 percent, the strain is considered an indica. If the amount of myrcene is under one half of one percent, then the strain is deemed a sativa.

This dynamic is a good example of the entourage effect, a theory that cannabinoids and terpenes work together in harmony to deliver medicinal efficacy to patients. Many terpenes buffer or enhance the effects of major cannabinoids like THC.

New Strains Constantly Being Created

New strains of cannabis, many of which are hybrids of existing strains that display exceptional analgesic (pain killing) or anti-inflammatory qualities, are being created on a regular basis. While some strains are better at dealing with the nausea associated with chemotherapy (used to treat patients with cancer and Crohn’s, among other diseases), most types of cannabis are very good at this.

With such dramatic differences between indicas and sativas in terms of medicinal efficacy and the experience of the patient, those legally using medical cannabis should work with their physician and dispensary to experiment with various strains that are already known to deliver exceptional benefits to other sufferers, especially those with the same condition.

Patients must strive to find the strains that best deal with their particular disease or ailment and its symptoms, including the side effects of any pharmaceutical drugs or therapies. This is typically not an overnight project and may require months or even years of diligent effort. In fact, patients are encouraged to continually experiment with new strains in search of greater potency or a superior cannabinoid profile that delivers improved relief.
Because this efficacy is so subjective, the advice of other patients can be given only so much weight. The true test of a particular strain of indica or sativa occurs only when used by an individual patient when they most need it, such as during bouts of pain, nausea, or insomnia.

It’s heirloom week here at PSM!

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Landrace Strains: The Complete Guide To These Rare Strains

Landrace Strains

When it comes to cannabis, variety really is the spice of life. From Fruity Pebbles to Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, there always seems to be a strain for every occasion. But did you know that all the strains we have today trace back to a handful of original cannabis plant types known as landrace strains?

It’s true. In fact, botanists can trace the entire cannabis lineage back to an original landrace strain in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We know — mind blown, right?

So what is a landrace strain, specifically? What makes them unique? And should you drop everything, sell your car, and trek to the back of beyond just to try one?

In this article, the experts at Honest Marijuana will answer those questions and tell you everything you need to know about the rare landrace strains.

An Extremely Brief History Of Cannabis

Landrace strain of the cannabis plant

Historical documents from as far back as 2900 B.C.E. (before common era) and archaeological evidence from various regions indicate that cannabis was already in use during the Neolithic period in China.

That means humans could have been smoking weed as far back as 10,000 B.C.E.!

Actually, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Our ancient stoner ancestors probably consumed cannabis as an edible or as a weed tea. It probably wasn’t until later that some ganja genius got it in his or her head to inhale the smoke of a burning pot plant.

We really don’t know for sure about cannabis use, though, because Wikipedia didn’t exist back then and no one wrote anything down (they probably forgot because they were stoned off their weed tea).

Cannabis genetics are a different thing entirely. Botanists don’t need written records to do some pretty amazing things, like trace all the cannabis strains that we know about today back to single plant variety that first developed in the Hindu Kush region of what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Keep in mind that this area was a no-man’s land between Indian and Chinese civilizations way back then. But it’s not hard to imagine an intrepid Chinese explorer stumbling upon a crop of wild cannabis in this region, eating it, burning it, or just using the fibers for something, thereby kicking off our current marijuana revolution.

From that earliest discovery, mankind took cannabis wherever they went and the plant spread outside the Kush and China to Russia, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and even parts of North America.

Through the intervening years, ganja growers have combined strain after strain of cannabis plants in order to produce different results.

Some growers wanted the plant to grow in cooler climates. Some growers wanted the plant to grow in warmer climates. Some growers wanted to isolate a particular flavor. That led to the production of the myriad strains we have now.

But everything can be traced back to that one original strain and the handful of landrace strains that followed.

What Is A Landrace Strain?

Marijuana plant

A landrace strain is a variety of cannabis plant that has less diluted DNA than other strains of cannabis. That means landrace strains have not been crossbred with another variety of cannabis.

To take the distinction even further, landrace strains are usually indigenous to a certain part of the world (meaning they have adapted to the environment of a specific geographic location). And since these landrace strains are the original cannabis plant from that area, descendants from those strains often bear part of the region’s name (e.g., Kandy Kush, Durban ThaiSuper Lemon Haze).

Let’s think of it this way for clarification: The original strain that developed in the Hindu Kush so many thousands of years ago was a wild species.

Caveman potheads took seeds from that wild species and planted them in various parts of the world in the thousands of years between then and now. Those plants that were directly descended from the original species are now known as landrace strains.

From there (in, say, the past 100-200 years), mankind continued to practice selective breeding of the cannabis plant for genetic improvement. That produced the modern hybrid strains we enjoy today.

6 Landrace Strains From Around The World

Here, for your pleasure, is a brief list of six landrace strains from around the world. This is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s just to give you an idea of where that Chem Dog you’re smoking came from:

  • Hindu Kush, Pakistan
  • Pure Afghan, Afghanistan
  • Lamb’s Bread, Jamaica
  • Acapulco Gold, Mexico
  • Durban Poison, Africa
  • Panama Red, Central America

Are Landrace Strains Unique In Some Way?

One of the landrace strains

It’s important to understand that the landrace classification only describes the strain’s genetic purity and indigenous upbringing.

It does not mean that landrace strains will get you higher than a good batch of Blue Dream or cut your anxiety quicker than a high-CBD strain.

In fact, modern strains are much better than landrace strains at generating the effects we’re all looking for (be they recreational or medicinal). That’s because growers have bred the plants for those specific effects.

Landrace strains are not “better” than modern strains, or even really unique in any way. They just have less diluted DNA. They’re closer to the original wild species than anything else we have available today.

To put it in perspective, it’s like comparing the very first car (let’s say it was the Model T for simplicity’s sake) with the newest BMW.

You’re going to enjoy cruising around in the BMW more than you would the Model T — the BMW is comfier, rides better, is easier to start, and goes faster (just to name a few) — but it’s still good to know where that BMW originally came from.

That’s how you can look at landrace strains today. They’re really only useful to historians, scientists, and pot purists.

The one benefit from trying a landrace strain would be experiencing more genuine effects that are closer to those produced by the original cannabis strain. Maybe the high or the medicinal effects were completely different. We just don’t know.

Where Have All The Pure Landrace Strains Gone?

Pot leaf

You may be wondering why you haven’t heard about landrace strains before. Where have they all gone?

To answer both questions at the same time: the original landrace strains have been taken out of their native environment and endlessly crossbred with other varieties to produce something new.

When a landrace strain is removed from its indigenous environment (say, Pakistan) and forced to grow elsewhere (say, Mexico), it has to mature in different growing conditions. In response to those new growing conditions, the plant will exhibit new characteristics (e.g., smaller flowers, longer grow time, higher THC).

During that transition from indigenous environment to new growing conditions, some of the characteristics of the original plant will be lost. To get those characteristics back, you’d have to return the plant to its native environment.

Even then, the “purity” would be in question because you’ve grown a plant in a different location (Mexico) — producing slightly different characteristics — and then tried to return the seed to the place where its grandparent plant came from (Pakistan).

See how quickly things can get murky and diluted? It’s enough to make your head swim and your eyes go googly (even without taking a toke). That’s why we recommend not thinking about it too deeply.

It’s enough just to know that landrace strains exist. You don’t have to get intimate with the subject. Just give a polite ‘sup nod as you pass by on your way to the local dispensary for a dime bag of Yoda OG.

Should You Try A Landrace Strain?

Our answer to questions like these is usually a resounding, “Yes!”

There are a few times when we have to say no — like, should you make your own THC-O-Acetate or CO2 cannabis oil — but, for the most part, it never hurts to try.

That said, don’t cash in your life savings for the chance to puff a landrace strain. You’ll probably be disappointed. Modern strains are often better at producing the recreational or medicinal effects that you’re looking for.

Remember, landrace strains aren’t stronger, more potent, or better in some way. They’re just less diluted (genetically speaking) than other strains.

And, honestly, even that’s debatable given how much time has passed since the discovery of the original landrace strain and man’s tendency to crossbreed plants to make them grow “better.”

It’s good to know about landrace strains, but we seriously doubt they’re going to be the next big thing in cannabis consumption unless scientists find something in their DNA that cures cancer better than Rick Simpson oil or completely cures anxiety and depression.

You’re better off using organic, pesticide-free marijuana than spending your hard-earned money on something that claims to be a landrace strain.