This article is the fourth of a series focused on the most important landraces of cannabis. All the thousands of strains of cannabis we use today are derived from a limited number of landraces, which have been used for medicinal, religious and recreational purposes during centuries. Cannabis originated in central Asia, and from there it has spread to all corners of the world. Sometimes helped by nature, sometimes by man, cannabis seeds have conquered unimaginable distances, spreading their genetics, adapting to new environments, changing their characteristics, and therefore resulting in countless combinations. Some of these combinations stabilized themselves through inbreeding, and resulted in landraces. Some of these landraces have preserved themselves, isolated in remote areas of the planet with no contact with other cannabis strains for long periods of time.
My name is Franco, my passion is cannabis, and my work is strain-hunting for Green House Seed Company.
And this is the history of:
The perpetual weed of Reunion
The island of Reunion lies in the southern Indian Ocean, east of the coast of Madagascar. The closest land is Mauritius, another small island, 200 km away.
Reunion Island, or â€˜Ile de la Reunionâ€, is a small but very exclusive tourist destination, catering to the rich and famous of Europe and to the ever-growing Asian and African elite. The island is a French oversea department, and it is considered the 26th region of France; police and military are French, and on the island the Euro is the official currency and the French the official language.
Reunion is a tiny island, just 60 km long and 45 km wide, but has an active volcano 2600 meters high and another inactive one 3000 meters high. The active volcano erupted over 100 times in the last 400 years, and is under constant monitoring.
The first men to arrive on Reunion were merchants from the Arab and Indian empires, between the years 800 and 1100. They never settled on the island because they feared the active volcanoes, so until the 17th century Reunion was completely inhabited. Then the Portuguese used it as a trade-post for their ships until 1665, when the French took control of the island and stayed. Reunion became part of France and was a very important naval port on the route to the Far East until the middle of the 20th century and the opening of the Suez Canal. Now the islandâ€™s economy is based on tourism and sugar, and it has a very wealthy population for an African country.
The capital city and other villages are scattered on the coastal land, where all the agriculture takes place as well. There are few long white beaches on Reunion, and lots of rugged rocky spots where huge black lava stones clash with the crystal clear waters of the reef. It is an amazing natural environment, more similar to Hawaii than to Mauritius actually.
The legal status of Cannabis on Reunion is a bit of a paradox, like on many other islands. The French law is very strict, and does not tolerate any use, not even for religious purposes. But the reality is very different: the population of Reunion is a mix of African, Asian and European heritage, colorful and very easy-going. The locals, especially the men, like to smoke ganja to relax, but they do it privately, avoiding public places or beaches. This low-key attitude has made possible the preservation of very secretive plantations, hidden in the forest at the base of the volcanoes. Growers hide their fields under the thick canopy of the forest, scattering the plants in small patches of cleared undergrowth. Camouflage and secrecy are essential, and it is almost impossible to find them without a local guide willing to take you there. Irrigation is not a problem as the forest is quite humid all year round and rain showers are regular and generous. The biggest problem comes from animals eating the plants, especially birds and rodents.
The perpetual weed of Reunion is considered a local landrace. It is a powerful indica/sativa cross, probably arrived from India or from Madagascar with the European merchant ships hundreds of years ago. It is not impossible that it came even earlier, with the first Arab sailors that reached but did not settle; it is impossible to establish. What is sure is that it grows quite tall and stretchy, with long branches and very long fingered leaves. The fertile volcanic soil makes the plants dark green, almost shiny in the humid air of the forest. Under the canopy the sunlight is filtered and this contributes to the internodes stretching up to seek the light. The growers plan their crops on one main season and a secondary season, in a similar way to what happens on Mauritius. The best season is December to April, with another shorter crop possible between May and August. The long buds are usually harvested too early, so they retain a very active and energizing kind of high, at the expenses of a cured flavor. The perpetual weed of Reunion burns quite bitter at first, to reveal a more complex bouquet of incense and sandalwood.
But the most incredible trait of this plant is neither its taste nor the effect. Itâ€™s the fact that it keeps growing and flowering for two, sometimes three years in a row. For some very mysterious reason the plants that have been imported hundreds of years ago have developed a unique ability to regenerate vegetative growth once the buds have been removed, and to flower once again when the days shorten again next winter. It is not a uniform and stabilized trait, and some of the plants actually die after the first harvest, like any other annual cannabis plant. Probably other genetics have been sporadically introduced by visitors, polluting the unique characteristic of the perpetual.
This perpetual cannabis landrace allows the growers to chop off all buds, leaving a small skeleton of stem and branches. Few weeks later new growth slowly begins to show and in a matter of days the plant is boosting vegetative growth again, to eventually start flowering again for the next crop.
The most experienced growers tell tales of plants that have been planted in December, harvested the next April, then went back into growth for two months, then flowered again and were harvested a second time in August. And some say they swear to have seen plants harvested even a third time the next April, one and a half year after being planted. I cannot confirm the truth of these claims, but I can testify that it is considered common knowledge on the island.
Interestingly, I once met a musician from Reunion traveling through Africa. He had brought with him some seeds from perpetual plants and tried to grow them in two different locations on the African continent, without being able to replicate the result.
This makes me presume that the perennial trait might be induced by unique environmental factors rather than genetics. There might be a specific soil composition on the island that stimulates this character in the plants. Or, to make a very thin hypothesis, it could be the huge magnetic field generated from the volcanoes, the same one that troubles satellite TV reception and small aircraft instruments.
Whatever the reason, the perpetual weed of Reunion is one of the most incredible landraces known to man, and surely one that deserves to be hunted, retrieved and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Franco â€“ Green House Seed Co.
This content is copyright of Green House Seed Co. Â© Green House Seed Co. All rights reserved. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited other than the following:You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.