Making Sense of Strain Names
May 4th, 2023
Shop for strains long enough and you’re bound to start wondering why some of them have such colorful, seemingly outlandish names.
From eloquent, enigmatic sounding strains like Pavlova Meringue to the legacy options like OG Kush, the fact is that the rules remain fully unwritten when it comes to naming cannabis strains.
In the 1960s and 70s, the first strains to gain widespread popularity were so-called landrace strains. Named to denote geographic origins, prominent examples include Panama Red, Acapulco Gold, and Afghani Kush. Eventually, as breeders began to experiment more with crossing different strains to create new hybrids, strain names would expand to reflect specific lineages.
For example, in addition to paying homage to a legendary musician, the strain Berry White is a reference its parent strains: Blueberry and White Widow. However, given the underground nature of cannabis cultivation for most of its existence, no official rules, conventions, or guidance has ever been established. Filling the void is instead what amounts to a “dealer’s choice” mentality.
As the defacto standard when it comes to naming strains, this free-for-all has allowed for a veritable galaxy of wild strain names to catch on — many complete with their own fun or fascinating origins.
In fact, Barry White is but one of many pop culture figures to have their names appear as a cannabis strain. In many cases, including Berry White, the name also serves a dual purpose. Purple Urkle, for instance, speaks to the strain’s bold purple coloring while also playfully tying in a pun to the famed “Family Matters” character played by Jaleel White.
Other strains are named for the way those who consume them tend to feel after, leading to the likes of Trainwreck, Amnesia, and more abstract iterations like Blue Dream. Another inspiration for many strain names comes from some combination of their specific colors, flavor, and smell. Examples of strains named in this fashion include Berry Pie and Cocoa Cream.
Making things even more complex are names that reference multiple things at once. Sometimes, this is done in remarkably sly fashion too, like with Dr. Who — a strain named because it’s the child of breeding Mad Scientist and Timewreck. Clever, no?
To put it all together, let’s look at some of Glass House Farm’s most popular strains and learn more about how they got their names!
With genetics that are somewhat of a mystery, Blue Dolphin is an earthy strain with notes of lemon and a name based in part on the possibility that it’s a phenotype of Blue Dream. In addition, this a strain that simply causes a splash as a crowd pleaser known for providing strong cerebral relief.
The clever (if somewhat off-putting) name Cheetah Piss is a tribute to another strain with exceptional stank: Cat Piss. In both cases, a strong ammonia-like aroma serves as a central characteristic, meaning you’ll have earned your stripes after curling up with this strain perfect for keeping you elevated when you still need to get things done.
Not all names are meant to last forever. In the case of R*ntz, a former connection to a certain popular candy brand necessitated a bit of breathing room in the form of a well-placed asterisk. As for how the strain came to be called by its former name, that’s due to its genetics, which yield a bouquet of sweet flavors like mango, pineapple, and fruit punch.
Zack is a freelance cannabis and culture reporter. He served as San Francisco Weekly’s “Pacific Highs” columnist for six years, covering local equity programs, Bay Area cannabis news, and interviewing everyone from Willie Nelson to Rep. Barbara Lee. His other bylines include the San Francisco Chronicle, Leafly, California Leaf Magazine, The Nib, Vanity Fair, KQED, and Variety. Follow him on Twitter: @zackruskin.