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Crossing Cannabis Strains: What Does It Mean and How Is It Done?

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

September 7, 2023 12:00 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Crossing Cannabis Strains: What Does It Mean and How Is It Done?

Cannabis comes in a myriad of different varieties. In the earlier days of cannabis, crossing cannabis strains to get a specific strain wasn’t easy. Not many people were versed in specific strains. They bought whatever the dealer had. A large portion of dealers carried brick weed, AKA round-town brown. It was far from sticky and had lots of seeds and stems.

But there was something about rolling a fatty and blazing with your buds that so many of us loved and still love. The “Hippie Trail” helped give birth to new varieties of cannabis. Seeds from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Nepal started being collected and brought back with hippie travelers. These seeds were traded and crossed with other popular strains that came from places like Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, and elsewhere.

Cannabis was rather plain in the U.S. until the 60s and 70s when strains like Haze, Skunk, Maui Wowie, Panama Gold, and others started to show up on the scene. By this time, growers were experimenting with crossing different strains to create new ones. Some of the early cannabis genetics created in the U.S. were Early Pearl, Early Girl, Northern Lights, Skunk, and Haze.

These were actually the five strains taken from California to the shores of Amsterdam, where they would be worked on by legends like Neville Schoenmakers, Scott Blakely, AKA Shantibaba, and others.  According to a popular online source that catalogs cannabis strains, there are “29,870 different cannabis varieties” out there today. All of these cannabis strains were created from a mix of five different varieties of cannabis.

  1. Landrace Cannabis Strains: A cannabis strain, either indica or sativa, that only grows in a specific place and has not seen the influence of outside genetics.
  2. Indica Cannabis Strains: Cannabis plants that grow short and bushy with leaves that resemble a maple leaf.
  3. Sativa Cannabis Strains: Cannabis plants that grow tall and lanky with long, skinny, fingery leaves.
  4. Ruderalis Cannabis Strains: Ditch weed, wild cannabis, found in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Asia.
  5. Hybrid Cannabis Strains: A mix of cannabis strains that can display characteristics of both indica and sativa.

What Does It Mean to Cross a Cannabis Strain?

To cross a cannabis strain means to mix it with other genetics. Multiple genetics go into these crosses. Most of the crosses are made with strains that are crosses themselves. These crosses make up the diverse collection of hybrid cannabis strains we have today. You may see hybrids referred to as 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, or 80/20. This refers to the mix of indica and sativa. Another thing you may notice is the “X” when a strain’s parent strains are mentioned. For example, Gorilla Glue is said to be a three-way cross of Chem’s Sister X Sour Dubb X Chocolate Diesel.

How Are Cannabis Strains Crossed?

Cannabis strains are crossed by using pollen collected from a male cannabis plant and exposing that pollen to a female plant that is flowering. When the male pollen comes into contact with the female buds, seeds form, carrying genetics from both the male and female plants. This is how hybrids are created. There are a few ways of accomplishing this.

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Hybrids are made in controlled environments. One male plant can turn an entire crop of females into a seed crop. The pollen from male cannabis plants is some strong stuff. Male plants are selected for strong growing characteristics such as aroma, branch structure, and more. Their pollen sacs are allowed to ripen and fill. Before they break pollinating the plants around them, they are removed and set aside to dry.

The pollen is collected and spread onto female plants, most commonly using a paper bag filled with pollen to cover branches of female buds. When these buds mature, they’ll be packed with seeds. Another way is to place a male plant in a tent or grow room with female plants to produce a seed crop. This is only the start of the hybrid. It must now be worked with for several grows in order to make sure it is stabilized and produces a good female-to-male ratio on a consistent basis.

The King of Cannabis

One of the legendary cannabis breeders, cultivators, and seed collectors, Neville Schoenmakers, AKA the King of Cannabis, was arrested in Australia for the distribution of cannabis seeds and pollen across the U.S. during Operation Green Merchant. Neville is behind some amazing crosses of cannabis that are still loved hybrid cannabis strains today, such as Nevilles Haze.

Per a reputable online source, the story goes, Neville “traveled in 1990 to Australia to be with his family since his wife was pregnant. But shortly after arriving, he was arrested by local police at the demand of the US court. Extradition proceedings started to bring Schoenmakers to court in New Orleans while their lawyers were discussing the legitimacy of extradition on the grounds that marijuana seeds harbor any cannabinoids.”

Just days before Neville was set to be extradited to the U.S., an Australian judge set a $100,00 bail for Neville, who posted bail and shot off to Amsterdam. Eventually, the charges by the U.S. would be dropped. Rumor has it that the charges were dropped for access to Neville’s collection of cannabis genetics. Is there truth to this? We may never know.

Popular Hybrid Cannabis Strains

All the crosses of cannabis from the past have led to today’s favorite hybrids. The names of these hybrid cannabis strains are getting a little far out, but some of them will stand the test of time to become timeless classics. Here are ten cannabis crosses that went on to become hybrid favorites.

  1. OG Kush
  2. Gelato
  3. Wedding Cake
  4. Affy Skunk
  5. Cherry Pie
  6. Chemdawg
  7. Girl Scout Cookies
  8. GMO
  9. Miracle Alien Cookies
  10. Pancakes

The next time you get a chance to try a hybrid cannabis strain, you’ll know how it came to be. What is your favorite cross of cannabis strains?

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