Skunk, Haze, and Kush are legends of pot culture. They are the weed families that laid the genetic foundations for countless strains and popular hybrids. But it doesn’t end with the classics. We’ve compiled a beginner’s guide on the major marijuana families. Stay tuned for some delicious, exotic, and iconic strains every stoner should try.
Is Skunk a strain or a slang word for weed?
Both! Skunk is the nickname given to weed that exudes a pungent, dank odour, the type of lingering aroma that trails behind conspicuously in the air. However, it’s not just a slang term referencing a small black and white mammal that sprays toxic mist from its nether regions. Skunk is one of the most famous cannabis strains and the parent to countless popular hybrids.
Skunk is just one twig off the cannabis family tree. It shares far-stretched branches and deep roots with the likes of Haze, Kush, Purple, Cookies/Cakes, and Thai.
What is a marijuana strain family?
All weed descends from the Cannabaceae family of plants. Like our own families, cannabis has siblings, cousins, and distant relatives who share identifiable characteristics. Strains are labelled indica or sativa to help indicate the two (highly debated) subspecies and their desired effects. Hybrids are a crossbreed of indica and sativa genetics and can be both mellow and stimulating.
There are indeed botanical differences between cannabis strains. However, to reap the rewards, it’s about how all parts of the ganja plant work in unison. For example:
- Terpenes are responsible for aromatic compounds, flavours and colours within cannabis.
- Indica/sativa indicate growth patterns (fluffy vs dense buds, tall vs short plants, broad vs narrow leaves, etc.).
- Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are the plants’ psycho/non-psychoactive chemical compounds.
- Trichomes are tiny crystal-like glands of resin rich in THC and terpenes.
The terpene profiles and grow patterns place a strain within a ‘Family’ – giving structure to the wild web of cannabis varieties. It’s a tool for keeping track of the many ‘offspring’ that a ‘parent’ plant has created.
But, most importantly, it helps us understand what to expect when a strain belongs to the Skunk family, the Afghan family (or both!)
How are weed strains named?
Growers use multiple methods to name their creations. Most commonly by:
- the country or region of origin; Holland’s Hope after The Netherlands, Durban after an area in South Africa, the Hindu Kush after the mountain region in Central Asia, and Acapulco Gold after the city in Mexico
- combining the names of two-parent strains, e.g., Cheese x Candy Kush
- the effect a strain produces, e.g., Gorilla Glue, a heavy indica-dominant strain
- different traits of the plant itself, e.g., aroma, physical characteristics like Purple Bud, Banana OG Kush
- paying homage to cannabis leading figures like Jack Herer and Ed Rosenthal
For all of you green-thumb enthusiasts out there, it’s helpful to know – what you’re usually referring to as a cultivar (a specific type of tomato, for example) would be applicable in the case of cannabis, too. However, society has opted for the word ‘strain’ instead – don’t be surprised if that changes in the future!
Famous strain families – How do they differ?
Kush strain family
Starting us off is Kush, an old indica with a long journey through history. Its origin and legacy are owed to the 500-mile Hindu Kush Mountain range towering the borders between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the most western region of the Himalayas. An ancient mystical place on earth and one of the few geographic regions where marijuana grows natively.
Upon inspecting a mature plant, you’ll find dense, sticky buds, oozing with resin and bursting with deep green colas. The stems are solid and stout – an advantage for indoor grow rooms with little space. The flowers are crawling with orange and bronze wiry pistils (hairs), almost glowing with a sunny hue.
Breeders appreciate Kush’s indica genetics for its natural resistance to cold temperatures, high winds, and short flowering period. If you want to sink into sedation, seek out its pungent spiced-wood aroma and heavy bodily hypnosis.
Top 5 Kush strains
- Hindu Kush
- OG Kush
- Banana OG Kush
- Critical Kush
Haze strain family
Are you looking for a high-energy boost to charge you with a creative buzz? Then wander into the extended Haze family, dripping with toxic sweet, sour scents and an earthy allure. The high-THC (roughly 18%), mind-body blast of euphoria will keep your brainstorming and conversations flowing.
Legend has it the “Haze Brothers” spent most of the 1960s and 70s experimenting with a wide variety of sativa genetics. They were cultivating strains like Thai, Columbian, Mexican, and South Indian to unlock the powerful genetics of the original Haze hybrid. Their success launched the modern cannabis era in 1960s Santa Cruz, California.
In the 1980s, Haze landed in the Netherlands. The growers here began a combination of selective breeding and adaptation to promote indoor cultivation. As a result, Haze is the proud mama of countless powerful hybrids, turning stoner stoics into giddy children – regardless of how THC tolerant they think they are.
Top 5 Haze strains
- Mexican Haze
- Diesel Haze
- Sour Diesel
- Super Silver Haze
- Amnesia Haze
Skunk strain family
‘Skunk’, more appropriately known as ‘Skunk Weed’, is notorious for its pungent smelling buds. This USA-made abomination has been watering eyes since the 70s. The powerful musky odour is partly due to the particularly high traces of myrcene, the dominant terpene in Skunk weed.
A no-brainer for growers because healthy crops are highly adaptable, have a short flowering period, and yield large dense buds. A hybrid between short and bushy Afghani/Pakistani mountain strains with tall, potent sativa weed from central and south America and southeast Asia. Skunk is for indica-dominant herb lovers who dare to get stinky in their secret gardens.
The intense body high might make you feel like a stick of butter melting over everything you touch, so operating heavy machinery or running errands is not recommended. But why bother? You’ve already achieved maximum relaxation and sustenance, bordering on dreamland. What more could you want?
Top 5 Skunk strains
- Skunk #1
- Lemon Skunk
- Super Skunk
- WSS Skunk
- Top 44
Purples strain family
You might have seen pictures of stunning purple buds online and wondered, “Is this real life?” It seems too magical a phenomenon but ‘Purps’ are 100% a thing. Cultivators selectively bred uplifting sativa with stunning purple indica strains to carefully increase the presence of a phytochemical called anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are responsible for the colours red, purple, and blue that appear in vegetables and plants.
The flowery buds resemble a juicy grape, and the dense smoke tastes like it too! These antioxidant properties may even indicate longer shelf life. Now, it’s hardly the fountain of youth, but its calming, heavily sedative effects will likely convince you otherwise. Just another 420-legend for those chasing an indica-dominant experience.
Top 5 ‘Purps’ strains
- Grandaddy Purple
- Purple Bud
- New Purple Power
- Purple Haze
- Cherry Pie
Cookies/Cakes strain family
Somewhere in a San Francisco garage at the end of the 2000s, Cookies and Cakes were rising to the occasion. This new recipe was an instant hit, dominating the cannabis world in as little as months and leaving a trail of doughy aromas for every Hansel and Gretel to follow.
Weed strains from the Cookies and Cakes family present a high THC content (roughly 19%) and a terpene profile dominated by caryophyllene. An indica-dominant delight Willy Wonka might have made to magnify your munchies and send you floating up and away.
So, take a toke and be whisked into an uplifting, talkative head high, paired with delicious mint and sweet vanilla clouds of smoke. Perfect for lazing about or nights on the couch. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
Top 5 Cookies/Cakes Strains
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Wedding Cake
- Gelato #51
- Gelato White
Thai strain family
Thai is a rare tropical landrace strain with a mission to uplift your creative mind. This family is truly reminiscent of the golden age of cannabis. Grown natively in Thailand, it was selectively bred along the Ko Chang archipelago, part of a stretch of water bordering 52 islands.
Long seasons of high humidity and sun-kissed sea spray have gifted Thai with a potent THC ratio (16-22%). The pure sativa landrace is sometimes referred to as ‘Thai Sticks’ because of the way buds were traditionally dried and tied onto long sticks. Brought over to the US in the 70s and 80s, Thai created a legacy of its own. Haze and other household names were only possible because of their Thai ancestors.
Growing Thai weed outside of its warm island home (15 degrees above the equator) is a challenge – due to its long growth cycle and slow flowering time (10-13 weeks). Nevertheless, if the conditions are right, it can be grown successfully with a hot, humid greenhouse and some experience.
The dominant terpene caryophyllene produces an earthy tobacco flavour and a musky cloud on exhale. The mouth-watering aroma of fruit, herb and citrus add an energetic effect to your heightening senses. The highs are engrossing – so if you’re prone to feeling anxious when smoking, think about dose control.
It’s totally fine to have a baby hit or two for a light buzz. Similarly, if you get your hands on an edible, start with two small bites and gauge how you feel before eating the rest. Once you get it right, you’ll enjoy a smooth and chilled out experience without feeling sluggish.
Top 5 ‘Thai’ strains
- Northern Lights
- Haze Auto
Skunk, Haze, Kush, Purple, Cookies/Cakes, and Thai have laid the foundations for the strains we enjoy now and into the future. Just a handful of famous cannabis families and their bad ass offspring, but enough to help you decide what strain to smoke or grow next. Is there a family you’re excited to try? Did we leave out your favourite strain? Share your thoughts in the comment section below (before you forget).