The science of genetics is of profound importance to cannabis growers, and fine-tuning our process to engineer the perfect strain can easily grow from a hobby into a passion. In our experimentation we can run into some pretty strange outliers, so it helps sometimes to have an idea of the weird and rare genetics that are out there. That way, the next time you overhear a group of growers talking about rare strains, you won’t be lost in a sea of unfamiliar names.
In the U.S. partly due to the restrictions on inter-state transport of cannabis, some strains are regionalized, making them rare in most areas. For instance, Neville’s Haze is very popular in Europe, but is pretty rare in the states, and while Puna Budder is still available in a few spots in California, it’s not nearly as popular as it once was.
Falling from popularity is responsible for a lot of strains being as rare as they are. Chronic, Hindu Kush and Colombian Gold are hard to find because consumers prefer other options. On the flipside, famous strains like Bruce Banner and Fruity Pebbles OG are rare because their potency generates popularity. The companies that generated those strains safeguard their work closely to ensure that demand for their crop remains high.
Some rare genetics can be diagnosed at first glance, like the rare sativa heirlooms train, Dr. Grinspoon. Dr. Grinspoon grows small buds throughout the plant, like a holly bush, and while it doesn’t have a high yield, you can find it being carefully tended to by home growers looking to keep their hobby discrete. Frisian Duck, a cross between Frisian Dew and Duckfoot, also doesn’t look exactly like a cannabis plant, because it lacks the distinctive cannabis leaf pattern.
Sometimes, a rare genetic isn’t a new strain at all, but a mutation, such as albino cannabis plants. These anomalies don’t have the coloration of a normal plant and in partial cases, can grow white or two-tone buds, but although albinism is visually striking, it carries a fatal flaw. Albino leaves lack chlorophyll, and affected plants have a tendency to starve before reaching maturity.
Of course, some rarities aren’t as visible, like polyploid strains. Most cannabis is diploid, meaning it has two sets of chromosomes, but some strains have a mutation that gives them more chromosomes, making them polyploid. In humans, polyploidy can be a problem (Down’s Syndrome is the result of having an extra 21st chromosome) but some growers find that polyploid cannabis produces bigger, heartier plants.
Genetics is a tricky business, and there are a lot of strains out there to keep track of. Still, the future of cannabis is going to be found in manipulating the strains of today. Growers who can keep on top of this fascinating new work will be setting themselves up for success.