18 Weed Strains Every Stoner (and Newbie) Should Know


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Jun 02, 2023

18 Weed Strains Every Stoner (and Newbie) Should Know

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From Pineapple Express to Sour Diesel, these are the strains worth knowing, whether you roll joints, pack bowls, batch brownies or barely smoke.

One of the most charming aspects of weed culture is, undoubtedly, all of the different strain names, which run the gamut from quirky, to funny, to downright offensive. Alaskan Thunderfuck?! Who wouldn't want to smoke (or vaporize) that?

There are so many names, and so many different cannabis varieties, that an otherwise fun exercise — coming up with the most hilarious and deranged monikers — also results in utter confusion from consumers.

Some names are a nod to taste or smell or appearance, while others reference lineages, which are, in many cases, hotly contested. Historically, there's no official log of weed names. As such, it can be hard to know what's what. Furthermore, cross-breeding and a lack of accountability, owing to cannabis's historic prohibition, means that sometimes names are simply whatever their breeders dream up, and these days, that's directly tied to marketing and bag appeal. Still, there are tells to look out for, and exciting history therein.

For the scientifically astute, technically, "strain" is not the right word, though it dominates the popular lexicon. Cultivar or variety are more accurate terms, but for the purposes of this piece, all will be used interchangeably.

Here are some of the most popular weed strains: their histories, effects, availability and names, explained.

Known for relaxation and relief, Indica strains stem from Afghanistan and India and typically contain higher levels of CBD. The plants themselves are short and wide.

Sativas are supposedly the opposite — they're THC-dominant and deliver an uplifting high. The plants are tall and thin.

Hybrid strains are ones with qualities inherited from both Indica and Sativa plants. Ratios vary, but growers (or dispensaries) will always inform you whether the strain is Indica- or Sativa-dom (dominant).

Terpenes are organic compounds that are naturally occurring in plants. They are the essential oils that give these plants their distinct aromas and flavors. They can also impart certain effects.

Pistils are a female weed plant's reproductive organs. They're the tiny squiggles (sometimes pink, sometimes orange, perhaps purple) you see on good bud.

Landrace strains are enduring recipes, if you will. They're plants that have not been altered since their founding. The most common modern landrace is Durban Poison.

Officially called tetrahydrocannabinol, THC is the compound responsible for weed's psychoactive properties.

THC-V, aka tetrahydrocannabivarin, is another cannabis compound — just like standard THC. It's known for its energetic effects.

Think of THC percentage as ABV, although the amount of THC doesn't necessarily dictate how potent a particular strain might be. There are other factors — like terpenes. But the standard range is roughly 4 to 30 percent.

Want to learn more about weed? Brush up on your 420 trivia with our guide to everything you need to know.

Though it's reached icon status in California – thanks to the likes of rappers like B-Real and Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg and many others in the hip-hop game — OG Kush can be traced back to Florida and a grower named Matt "Bubba" Berger. (Yes, he's on LinkedIn.) Legend has it that Bubba took a bunch of landrace cuts and crossed them with another strain he's known for, Kryptonite, aka "Krippy," a term also used as shorthand for any dank weed.

Krippy allegedly morphed into Kush and the cultivar made its way to LA, where it ended up in the hands of grower Josh D, who perfected its cultivation and introduced it to the rap community and coastal distribution networks. OG Kush is gassy and skunky, tends to clock in somewhere in the low 20s in terms of THC, percentage-wise, and, today, is probably the most famous hybrid strain of all time.

Inducted into mainstream pop culture thanks to the Seth Rogen movie of the same name, Pineapple Express is a Sativa-dominant hybrid that expresses a higher-than-average THC percentage and a hefty dose of the Myrcene terpene. It's made from a cross of Trainwreck and Hawaiian with bright citrus and pine flavors. Layered in those citrus notes is definitely a hint of tropical fruit — maybe pineapple or mango, a nod to its name. Because of its cross-breeding and Sativa-leaning ways, it's considered to be an energizing cultivar: zippy, uplifting, capable of inspiring creativity and good for being on the go.

Good luck finding a California cultivator who isn't growing Gelato these days – it's so common among large growers that it's become something of a punchline. Gelato, like many popular strains, is a potent hybrid with a sweet and creamy smell and taste. Brought to prominence in San Francisco by legendary grower Sherbinski, who was part of the aforementioned Berner's Cookies crew, it emerged sometime around 2010 and was also known as "Larry Bird," a nod to its genetic phenotype number, 33.

Since then, its lineage can be traced through many other popular strains, though the original phenotype is apparently no longer cultivated for mass consumption.

Any old weedhead is likely to wax poetic on the classic Sativa-dominant, purple-hued strain, Blue Dream, which fell out of favor over time but is being brought back due to popular demand (with a twinge of nostalgia). Blue Dream hails from the mountains of Santa Cruz, California, and is a cross between Blueberry and Super Silver Haze. It became popular because, though potent, it offers a balanced, uplifting high with an equal mix of head and body change. Like many other popular strains, its dominant terpenes are Myrcene, Pinene and Caryophyllene, which offer sedative, energizing and inflammation-busting properties. In short, this is a balanced bud — that even keel is what helped it rise to prominence in the first place.

A fascinating strain that has recently come back into favor for its high THC-V makeup, Durban Poison is a South African landrace cultivar that is 100 percent Sativa. Its high has been described as being on "weederall," a portmanteau of weed and Adderall, owing to its high intoxicating effects, thanks to THC percentages in the mid-20s, and its significant energizing properties (and, some say, appetite-curbing effects). For those who want a buzz, this is the strain to go with. For others who suffer from anxiety or who need to relax, Durban Poison is definitely not the choice and may magnify unwanted effects.

Beloved in hip-hop lore (and misattributed to rock legend Jimi Hendrix), Purple Haze is a strain that's likely a cross of several female landrace varieties from Mexico, Colombia, possibly India or Pakistan crossed with a Thai landrace male.

True to its name, this strain supposedly comes from the Sativa-crossed Haze lineage introduced by the mysterious "Haze Brothers" and Sam "The Skunkman," who created the original Skunk phenotype in 1960s Santa Cruz and brought Purple Haze to Europe, where it exploded in popularity. It's hard to find today, and though its name remains mythic in the culture, it's not likely to pop up in many dispensaries.

One of the most visceral strain names out there, true Mimosa smells and tastes as it sounds: yeasty, sweet and citrusy and slightly astringent. It's a Sativa-dominant variety that descends from Purple Punch and Clementine and was first cultivated in 2018 by the growers at Symbiotic Genetics, a cannabis breeder based in Northern California. That year, they won second place at the High Times Cannabis Cup. This is daytime weed, especially morning weed, again, as the name implies. It's uplifting and energizing — perfect for a wake-and-bake sesh with coffee.

Directly descended from two beloved aforementioned cultivars — Wedding Cake and Gelato — Ice Cream Cake is another current market dominator that is relatively new still to cannabis culture. It's sugary-sweet, Indica-dominant and typically exhibits more than 23 percent THC. It is especially good for stress and pain management, much less so for anything requiring any actual effort.

Many claim they actually have a genuine Runtz cut, but few actually do: this rare variety was made by the Cookies crew and is a cross between Zkittlez (another hotly claimed strain) and Gelato. It tastes almost otherworldly sweet and fruity, thanks especially to its Zkittlez lineage, so much so that it's hard to believe it's actually weed and not a packet of candy. Though its original cuts are closely guarded, it's a popular strain on dispensary shelves today, coveted for how good it tastes. Runtz produces a fun body high, with lots of giggles and a fast head change.

One of the many popular strains descended from OG Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, commonly abbreviated to GSC, actually has a minty chocolate taste. It has low-key been immortalized thanks to Bay Area rapper Berner and his crew – Berner is now the owner of the global Cookies merch, weed, dispensary and consumption lounge brand that has outposts all over the US, Europe and Thailand. Expressing high THC levels, typically well above 20 percent, GSC is an Indica-dominant, super frosty variety that rides the line well between being immobilizing and having a heady, energetic high, owing to its 60-40 Indica-Sativa ratio.

Originally cultivated by Lumpy's Flowers, Apple Fritter is a hybrid cross of Sour Apple and Animal Cookies, so it is part of the GSC (Girl Scout Cookies) lineage. Redolent of its name, its smell and taste prove sweet and earthy, with a hint of cheese. Its physical effects come straight from its parents: Animal Cookies/GSC imparts the couch-lock, while its diesel genetics allow for simultaneous energy. Think chatty and giggly, but while wanting to be horizontal and wrapped in a blanket.

Originating around 2013, Gorilla Glue (really, Gorilla Glue #4) hails from Nevada, where it was first invented by GG Strains. It's a prolific award-winner, capturing cup titles around the globe, and an Indica-dominant hybrid that has an instant, deep head change that quickly gives way to a seriously relaxing body high. The "glue" is, in part, a reference to its effects: a few puffs, and smokers will be glued to their seats. It's also a good hash weed, owing to its hyper-productive trichomes, which give it plenty of crystals to then extract. This also means it's highly potent – typically around 30 percent THC.

Yet another Gelato descendant, Biscotti is a cross with Florida OG (closely related to OG Kush). It's another Cookies crew strain, an Indica-dominant dessert with small, dense buds and a sweet taste, plus a little spice on the inhale. It's a social, relaxing strain that tends to clock in around 20 percent THC. It's not going to necessarily put someone down for the night, but it could be too much for some to socialize on, especially those with lower tolerance.

A newer strain in the culture is Wedding Cake, which is also known as Pink Cookies, first cultivated by Seed Junky genetics and named and brought into the market by the traditional market group Jungle Boys, which is today a legal, multi-state cannabis company. The name is derived from its frosty appearance and the hint of vanilla in its smell. It's a hybrid cross between Triangle Kush and Animal Mints and has become one of the most popular strains grown in legal markets, especially California, for good reason: it won Hybrid of the Year at the 2018 High Times Cannabis Cup.

Perhaps the best-named strain of all time, Alaskan Thunderfuck is a supposed Sativa-dominant strain that is nearly impossible to actually find in stores – this is one cultivar where the legend may surpass its actual availability or utility.

The truth is, nobody is really sure where it comes from, though it's rumored to be from Alaska, particularly the Matanuska (commonly misspelled Manatuska) Valley, which a long-ago High Times investigation found did actually produce a strain called Manatuska Thunderfuck back in the 1970s. Over time, it's likely that Alaskan Thunderfuck just became a catch-all name for any high-quality Alaskan bud, and rumor has it related varieties nodding to the name have been popping up across Alaska's legal cannabis industry.

Like many great strains throughout history, White Widow's lineage is hotly debated, but most stories place it as originating in the mid-1990s. Likely, it's a balanced hybrid from Green House Seeds in the Netherlands that's a cross between a Brazilian Sativa landrace and an Indica from Kerala, in South India. It quickly became a staple on Dutch coffee house menus and eventually gave way to birthing other popular cultivars, like White Rhino and Blue Widow. Potency-wise, it's less hard-hitting than many United States-bred strains, clocking in around the mid-high teens for THC.

East Coast heads will be familiar with Sour Diesel, which rose to prominence in the '90s and early 2000s in New York (and in the Northeast, in general). A true hybrid if there ever was one with a strong likelihood of Chemdog (another strain) in its lineage, Sour Diesel's Sativa dominance helped reinvigorate Sativas, which had fallen out of favor with growers compared to higher-yielding, faster-growing Indicas.

Considered a strong-smelling, high-THC strain with looser, lighter-colored buds and typically pink pistils, Sour D is incredibly heady and comes with a strong dose of the munchies. But its effects are two-fold: just as fast and hard as someone comes up on it, they’ll also crash into couch-lock. It's perfectly manic. After the early 2000s, it receded into the background but is making waves in legal markets as a "legacy" strain worth celebrating, ushering in a new age of popularity for the beloved New York variety.

A true Indica dominant in Myrcene, the most popular terpene found in legal weed sales today, Granddaddy Purp is famously crossed with an Afghani landrace, Mendo Purp and Skunk. Grapes and berries dominate the smell of these large, dense and, yes, purple buds, and its dreamy, intense physical high is ideal for pain and stress management, insomnia and appetite loss. Forget couch weed – this is bed weed, and it's a favorite of Indica enthusiasts partly for that reason.