Among the landrace marijuana strains popularized in the 1980s, few are as famous as White Widow, the resinous lady known for her frosty buds and penetrating high.
White Widow was the rock star of marijuana growing and selling in the 1990s, the same way strains like Blue Dream, Girl Scout Cookies and OG Kush are today. Everybody grew it, everybody wanted it, everybody buzzed about it.
The strain was already popular when it won the High Times Cannabis Cup in 1995 in an era when winning meant an immediate burst of seed sales for the victor.
There was a time when the majority of marijuana grow rooms were running White Widow. And if you were fortunate enough to visit a Dutch coffee shop in the Netherlands some two decades ago, it’s likely that White Widow was at the top of the menu and everybody was buying those candy-coated white nugs.
But do we know where White Widow came from? As with many other heritage marijuana strains, there are conflicting claims when it comes to who created it and what its genetic precursors are.
Several prominent cannabis industry insiders and seed companies claim to be the first to have created White Widow, or to have been the first to commercially market it.
Having lived in the Netherlands and networked regularly with the Dutch cannabis breeding industry myself, the most reliable version of White Widow’s origin story starts in the 1980s and belongs to a European cannabis seed breeder named Ingemar de Sjamaan.
De Sjamaan has claimed he spent nearly a decade working on White Widow and its forerunner strains before it was released to market in 1987.
And while White Widow has been described as a cross between a Brazilian sativa and a South Indian indica, this genetics backstory troubles cannabis landrace experts, who note that Brazil isn’t known for potent native cannabis strains, and that southern India — particularly its southernmost province of Kerala, where White Widow’s indica component was supposedly sourced — isn’t known for high-quality cannabis, either.
Indeed, the famous cannabis strains from India originate in the north of the country and are part of the cannabis tradition that produces hand-rubbed hashish from mountain-grown landrace strains.
Brazilian cannabis aficionados will tell you that the few strains that grow well in Brazil are equatorial sativas brought there from Colombia, Panama, Jamaica and Mexico.
However, what many will agree on is that White Widow is an internationally recognized superstar marijuana strain. Regardless of who created White Widow or where its genetics came from, by the mid-1990s this was a stabilized, established seed line that you can still grow today.
White Widow Growing & Phenotype Characteristics
White Widow is a relatively simple hybrid known primarily for the following benchmark characteristics:
- The buds look white because they boast a thick, frosted coating of resin glands against a background of lime-green leaves.
- The strain is an indica-leaning hybrid whose short-stature, indica-dominant phenotypes are ready for harvest after 6–8 weeks in bloom phase.
- The strain produces terpenoids resistant to gray mold, because it’s difficult for this botrytis to penetrate thick buds covered in copious amounts of resin glands.
- Authentic phenotypes lean toward peppery, lemony, piney scents and tastes.
- White Widow has a penetrating, creeping, long-lasting high.
One prime reason everybody cultivated White Widow back in the day is because these plants grow fast and hearty, with low profiles, dense branching even without topping, early flowering, and early maturation.
It’s a perfect strain to grow if you don’t have a lot of time for trimming, training, caging and monitoring. Perhaps its signature trait is its innate vigor — that is, its ability to thrive, grow swiftly, and yield frosty, finished buds early.
Check out the below video courtesy of the Green House Seed Co., explaining all about growing White Widow.
I’ve grown White Widow several times. It did well indoors and somewhat well in outdoor marijuana gardens where other strains being grown concurrently were troubled by gray mold or powdery mildew.
White Widow isn’t the highest-yielding strain in the world, but given that it grows short in stature and in relatively few total days from start to finish, it offers good return on investment, especially in a grow room with limited height or where you want to run a SCROG or sea of green operation.
Because White Widow diverts much of its energy to produce resin glands, you really do need to use boosters such as Big Bud, Bud Factor X, Rhino Skin and Nirvana.
Rhino Skin is especially important because it contains the correct form of potassium silicate, a compound your plants use to specifically boost resin glands.
Be warned: White Widow may create an overabundance of scent beginning in late grow phase, intensifying during bloom phase. For those of you growing in non-legal states, this could pose a security risk that has to be mitigated.
Harvest timing is important. Wait until 10–20 percent of the resin glands have gone cloudy, then flush with Flawless Finish for at least five days before harvest. It took me three seasons with White Widow before I knew exactly how many days it needed in bloom phase to give me the high and yield I wanted.
Speaking of high, this landrace strain combines numbing, painkilling, warming body effects with an energetic but not paranoiac head high. This feeling can be too strong for novice users and has a creeper effect — you want to wait 10–20 minutes after inhaling your first bowl to be sure you’ve felt the full onset of its entourage effects.
Yes, You Can Find Authentic White Widow Seeds
While this is an easy plant to grow, many marijuana growers have gotten ripped off trying to procure authentic White Widow genetics.
In the past 20 years, I’ve seen dozens of seed companies selling what they market as “the real White Widow.” I’ve met many growers who ordered seeds from such companies and were bitterly disappointed by the schwaggy plants that grew from them.
Not only that, I’ve personally witnessed the pathetic plants grown from inferior White Widow seeds. Here are the warning signs that’ll tell you the plant you’ve grown is not what it’s claimed to be:
- White Widow that wasn’t white enough; resin gland ratios were way too low.
- It’s not indica dominant. This meant the strain’s legendary fast finishing was absent. I saw several alleged White Widow phenotypes that took 9–11 weeks to finish bloom phase. That’s too long and indicates that the plant is not authentic White Widow.
- A plant that attracted rather than repelled botrytis or powdery mildew.
- Lots of resin glands, but a decidedly weak high.
- Too much body high, not enough head high. Boring. And a lack of terpenoids, resulting in a bland taste and smell.
- Hermaphroditic flowers, and/or male plants from seeds sold as feminized White Widow.
I suggest the following sources for authentic, reliable White Widow marijuana seeds: Dutch Passion, Green House Seed Company and De Sjamaan Seeds.
And please note that because of White Widow’s popularity, it’s been bred with many other strains to create dozens of variations that are unfortunately mostly inferior.
Fortunately, there’s one White Widow knockoff worth growing — White Russian from Serious Seeds.
White Russian is a cross between the “one-hit wonder” AK-47 and an original White Widow. It retains the white-resin-laden buds of original White Widow but adds more sativa genetics, courtesy of the AK-47 cross. White Russian has a longer bloom phase than old-school White Widow, with buds ready to harvest after 8–9 weeks.
True, in recent years White Widow’s popularity has declined as more complex hybrid strains have emerged, but every grower will be proud to have run at least one season of White Widow. The frosty nugs, sizzling high, and eager zeal with which the strain grows are a welcome addition to any grow op.