Definition - What does Heirloom mean?
The word heirloom refers to "something of special value handed down from one generation to another." In cannabis culture, this word is used to denote cannabis plants that are pure, that have existed for generations without having been crossed with other strains.
When used to describe a marijuana strain, the term heirloom means pretty much the same thing it means when applied to now rarely grown fruits and vegetables. However, because marijuana has not seen the same widespread cultivation that other plants have, there are far fewer heirloom strains out there.
Heirlooms are usually planted in small, isolated communities, and generally offer something of value to the grower, whether that is a unique flavor, a unique capability or tendency, or special adaptation to local growing conditions.
Hydrolife explains Heirloom
Like other plants, marijuana plants have been manipulated by humans over the centuries it has been used. Different strains were developed and bred to reproduce specific characteristics, ranging from THC levels to colorations, to fibrous tissue and everything in between. It’s the same process that humans used to create every breed of dog on the planet today, as well as many types of fruits and vegetables.
The progenitors of these strains are called heirloom varieties. However, because marijuana has not seen the same level of cultivation that most vegetables and fruits have, there are fewer heirloom varieties. While not necessarily organic, the term heirloom denotes a plant that has not been genetically modified (non-GMO).
From what can be deduced from historical records and evolutionary evidence, cannabis was originally only native to central Asia. This original plant is called a landrace strain. It was eventually discovered by humans who consumed the seeds as food, and used the fibers for other purposes. Those seeds were scattered wherever the humans wandered, giving rise to slightly different strains that evolved over time to meet the environmental conditions of their new areas.
Landrace strains today are those that are considered “endemic” to a particular region, and generally have names that denote where they were originally discovered. You’ll find heirloom varieties like Hawaiian and Thai, as well as Afghani.
Today, most strains are not heirloom varieties. Instead, they’re crossbreeds that incorporate the characteristics of many different strains in order to achieve a specific goal. This might be higher levels of cannabidiol, THC, terpenes, for example, or other types of characteristics.