We take for granted that marijuana buds look a certain way, and that our marijuana plants will enter bloom phase, go through the four bloom sub-phases, and then be ready for harvest, drying, and curing.
Even if you’ve grown heritage marijuana strains and the modern hybrids made from them, you we know what to expect. Each strain has its own unique, look, taste, scent, and high, but despite strain differences, our marijuana plants grow and mature in a predictable fashion.
This is what I knew about marijuana plants until the fateful day I chose to grow a wild landrace cannabis strain. The strain came to me from an associate who had traveled and worked in Africa and South America as a wildlife conservation biologist for a few years. Even though he isn’t a cannabis fanatic like me, I’d explained that cannabis seeds from exotic places are valuable and I’d compensate him for sending me landrace seeds.
The seeds he sent me included landrace marijuana seeds I planted; they were from Nigeria. He’d been hiking in Nigeria’s Old Oyo region as part of an environmental monitoring cadre when he spied cannabis plants growing like weeds.
The local guide who was with him confirmed that this was cannabis, and was traditionally used this type of cannabis plant for making medicinal teas and pastes. Its seeds are used for food. This type of cannabis had been growing wild in that region for as long as the locals could remember. It wasn’t cultivated or otherwise manipulated by people. It was gathered from the land just like other plants are gathered.
By the way, that description is a perfect example of landrace cannabis: it grows wild and hasn’t been actively bred or cultivated.
My associate stripped a few flowers from the rogue cannabis and found ripe seeds inside. “The flowers coated my hands with oil that smelled like turpentine and oranges, and only when I held my hands above a campfire did the oils go away,” he told me.
These Marijuana Seeds Were So Different
Growing cannabis seeds you’ve never grown before is always a bit of a risk, even if you’re not growing mysterious landrace marijuana seeds. Even if you bought marijuana seeds from a reputable seed bank and the strain is a well-known modern strain, you can end up with a pathetic performer that doesn’t yield large or gooey buds.
Marijuana plants from defective seeds can grow out with defects, such as hermaphroditism. When you research your strains thoroughly and only buy the best marijuana seeds or clones, you reduce those risks.
When I decided to germinate several of the Nigerian landrace marijuana seeds along with hybrid strains in my winter grow room, I knew this was a blank slate experiment. As it turned out, it was a very educational marijuana cultivation adventure.
The first thing that surprised me was these seeds were tiny—smaller than the head of a pin. They were darker than most cannabis seeds, and lacked the striated markings most marijuana seeds have.
The seeds had been carried around for months and then mailed to my post office box, but they germinated before all the other seeds. The Nigerian seedlings raced up out of the ground within two days, and most of them grew so tall so fast that they fell over. I ended up with only two plants to go forward with.
I’d been expecting thin Sativa leaves because this is what my friend had seen in Nigeria when he sourced the seeds. Cannabis from regions with massive doses of sunshine tend to have thin leaves, whereas cannabis from cold and cloudy regions tend to have thick leaves. It has to do with gathering sun energy photosynthesis.
But by the time the Nigerian plants were 16 inches high, the leaves were the largest I’d ever seen, as big as a baseball catcher’s mitt, and each leaf blade was wider than any leaf blades I’d ever seen. The strange thing is, the leaves that developed later on where much thinner and more like Sativa leaves.
The Nigerian marijuana plants were the most robust and interesting of all the strains I was growing. Their extremely pungent smell of turpentine and orange blossoms was detectable just three weeks after germination and increased as the weeks went by.
I had to top the Nigerian plants at week three because they were taller than all the other plants. But the topping didn’t produce the results you normally see when you top cannabis. Normally, when you top cannabis, the topped area splits into two branches and the topping also slows down vertical growth and spreads it horizontal.
But not with the Nigerians! The topping did nothing to slow the vertical growth or to force a split top. The plants continued to grow straight up and narrow. They had no side branches at all!
Eternal Bloom Phase
I put all my marijuana plants in bloom phase after 32 days in veg. My Nigerian plants were almost a foot taller than the other strains, so I cut the top foot off. With my usual program of using Bud Ignitor to stimulate early flowering in the first two weeks of bloom phase, all my other strains put on budding sites and started into early flowering within 14 days of starting bloom phase.
But the Nigerians showed zero sign of flowering, and their vertical growth slowed rather than accelerated, which is the opposite of what usually happens at the start of bloom phase, when plants stretch to double or more of the height they had at the end of grow phase.
Four weeks in to bloom phase, when the other strains had fat early peak bloom buds with a pleasant sugaring of resin glands, the two Nigerian plants were creating structures that looked like baseball bat buds.
The plants were six feet tall, which meant I had to keep them off to the side to prevent light burn. The top 30-37 inches of the plants, when looked at from a few feet away, looked like one solid bud longer as big in diameter as the top of a baseball bat.
However, when you moved in closer to examine the “bud,” it was strange clusters of small leaves, with spiraling tiny floral structures. There were few if any resin glands. Oddly, the orange blossom and turpentine smell were so strong it drowned out the scent of the other strains I was growing.
By weeks eight and nine of bloom phase, when I was already harvesting my other strains, the two Nigerians had developed tiny resin glands that were flush to the leaf, and some were cloudy, but the buds exhibited no signs of being ready to harvest.
Pretty soon, I’d harvested all my other plants and didn’t want to waste electricity on the Nigerian plants, so I put them outdoors (it was winter, so visible light twilight to dusk was 11.5 hours or less). I pretty much forgot about them, except to feed some Iguana Juice Bloom, organic Big Bud, and Bud Factor X whenever they were dry.
Sometimes, I put them into a dark grow tent for 15-16 hours per 24 hour day, hoping that starving them of light would force them to flower better, and finish. It didn’t work.
The Crippling High
Where I live, as soon as you put plants outdoors they’re attacked by thrips, aphids, mites, and fungus gnats. But the Nigerian plants repelled all those pests.
By week eleven, there were more resin glands, but nowhere near the sugary coating I’m used to from modern hybrid strains. After 15 weeks in bloom and when the outdoor daylength was starting to get longer, I decided this experiment was done, and harvested the plants.
I didn’t expect anything useful from them and hung them upside down to dry on my enclosed patio. I kind of forgot about them until I checked them after about two weeks and found the buds were bone dry. I cut up and put the buds in containers and froze them, thinking I’d make concentrates or cannabis butter from them.
But curiosity inspired me to one day cut up some of the dried floral material and combust it in a bong. The taste was very pleasant and the smoke smooth. What happened next was totally unexpected…
Within a few seconds of taking my first few hits, I felt a thudding head rush and then a body rush. It wasn’t like any other cannabis high I’d experienced, and it was all I could do to put the bong down and go lie down on a mat on the floor before I collapsed.
It’s hard to describe a marijuana high because it’s so subjective and personal. This high made my limbs feel like they were filled with helium and had become helium balloons. Lying on the floor, my legs and arms seemed to lift up vertically of their own accord.
The head part of the high was “creamy,” and reassuring, like a modified opiate. There were no racing thoughts or heightened emotions. It was like a wave swept over me and drowned my usual consciousness.
The weirdest thing was that when I tried to get up off the floor, I couldn’t. My limbs, which had felt as light as helium balloons, felt like lead. They felt like someone had tied them to the floor. I tried rolling on my side to push myself up but couldn’t manage it. I spent about five minutes trying in vain to rouse myself from being supine. I was reminded of the Quaalude scene from the famous true-story movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which shows what happened to Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill after they swallowed what they thought were stale Quaaludes, which you can see here…
Eventually, I abandoned my goal of getting up, and laid supine in a fluid state of forced calm for about an hour. After the high wore off enough, I crawled over to the couch and hoisted myself onto it. And even then, I felt like a puppet with its strings pulled by a cruel trickster. I was discombobulated, alienated from my own body, like someone with a neurological disorder. It took several more hours for me to be sober enough to move around like a normal person.
Landrace Marijuana Lessons
What did I learn from growing this landrace strain? The first thing I realized is that the early cannabis pioneers in Holland, Northern California and elsewhere did us a lot of favors by gathering landrace cannabis seeds and working on them for years until they behaved the way modern cannabis strains behave.
We all take for granted that our plants will start flowering within a few days after we switch to 12-12 lighting, that buds will be conical and dense and covered in resin glands, and that most of our strains except the most extreme Sativas will be ready for harvest within 7-10 weeks max.
It’s now obvious to me that those traits have been selected for and bred into our cannabis strains, and that landrace strains will do whatever they damn well please.
Another thing I learned is that landrace cannabis plants with few resin glands can still get you very high. Not only that, the high is caused by novel ratios, types, and amounts of cannabinoids and terpenoids so you get a completely different high than you experience from modern hybrid cannabis.
Now that I know that these marijuana seeds will produce bizarre plants that nevertheless have desirable traits (hardiness, thin profile, a strong, unique high), I will germinate more of them in an attempt to breed them with modern hybrids that have opposing traits so I can tame the strain.
My goal is to breed them with a 50-50 Sativa and Indica mixed hybrid that has reliably dense, resinous buds and a very short bloom phase. I’m hoping I can eventually create a marijuana strain that has the high and hardiness of the Nigerian landrace, with a much shorter bloom phase, fatter buds, and way more resin glands.
The last thing I’ll say about this marijuana growing adventure is it makes me appreciate the early cannabis seed gatherers and breeders who took landrace strains and turned them into the predictable, resinous, consistent strains we grow today. Growing a mystery landrace was a fun experience, but like most growers, I prefer a tame, predictable strain rather than a wild landrace marijuana strain.