Strain Geeking – Purple Haze – Finding the History Behind a Legendary Strain
It’s time to set the record straight on the Purple Haze strain. As I have mentioned in a previous entry to this series, one of the great pleasures of my job is the task of sitting down in the evening, enjoy a strain, then tracing its roots to back the landraces while pouring over labtests and oral histories. Researching the culture, cultivators, genetics, science, stories and legends behind a strain.
Jimi Hendrix did not write the song about the sativa.
Leafly’s description of Purple Haze begins, “Popularized by Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 classic, Purple Haze…”
There are two things glaringly wrong with this statement.
Haze, one of Purple Haze’s mothers, emerged from the Santa Cruz mountains in the early 1970s, 4-5 years after the famous rock anthem was first recorded. Created by the now famous Haze Brothers, Haze was a genius combination of every available Sativa landrace, bred in a method so un-scientific you’d cringe, but by sheer force of nature created the very benchmark of what we consider a Sativa today.
Hendrix biographer Harry Shapiro notes that Hendrix was inspired by the 1966 novel “Night of Light” by Philip Jose Farmer, where sunspots on a distant planet produce a phenomenon called “Purple Haze”. This period of violet light in the book rearranges physical reality for anyone awake to witness it. (Yes, the book is about “being woke”) It is an interesting novel by a Hugo Award winning novelist, and also bears striking parallels to popular views of Cannabis in the 1960s. But neither the book, nor the song were inspired by the cannabis strain.
Purple Haze is what is known as a legendary strain. People wrote about it, talked about it, and we know it existed. Preserving genetics and history is difficult under prohibition and persecution, and the original strain is most likely long gone. There are many legendary strains; “Alaskan Thunderfuck”, “Old Man Purple” and “Acapulco Gold” are some of the most storied, but even more recent strains, such as Bubba OG have led to conflicting stories of the names and the genetics behind them.
There are two prevalent stories about the origin of Purple Haze.
The first story is that it was a unique mutation of Chocolate Thai, known in the 60s as Thai Stick due to its long spindly flower structure. Thai Sativa express a rich, coffee brown color during flowering, turning a reddish brown when cured. The oldest stories of Purple Haze are that is was a Choco Thai mother plant that started showing a red tint to the brown, creating a very uncommon purple Sativa.
The second story, and the one I first heard working in the hills of the Emerald Triangle, was that Purple Haze was a Santa Cruz Haze phenotype from the mid-70s that was taken up into either Mendocino or Humboldt counties and crossed with one of the popular “Nor-Cal Purp strains”, derived from the North American landrace Indica.
Both stories are plausible, and it is also quite possible that both stories are true. When you acquire Purple Haze in a dispensary today, it is quite unlikely that you are smoking a pure Thai Chocolate phenotype; aside from being another legendary strain, the plant supposedly takes months to flower and only expressed it’s desired chocolate traits in male plants.
More probably, you are getting a Haze hybrid, that has had its more edgy Sativa tendencies chilled out by introducing an Indica purple. Modern Purple Haze plants have pronounced Sativa fan leaves, but a tighter flower structure that more closely resembles an Indica, lending credence to the Indica influenced theory.
In spite of the purple coloration of the flower, the scent of Purple Haze lacks the candy sweet aroma of Purple Indicas like Grand Daddy Purple, instead having the earthy herbal smell of traditional Sativas such as Jack Herer combined with the get-up-and-go head effect you would expect from a world class Sativa.
Regardless of the foggy history, Purple Haze is a worthy strain for anyone looking for a creative, energetic pick-me-up. Such is the magic of Cannabis history and genetics. While there is a growing camp that advocates discarding strain names altogether because of this confusing genealogy; replacing it with more exact measurements of Cannabinoid and terpene percentages that would be more reliable in indicating the precise effects of a strain, I believe that strain names are an important and easy way to remember the effects and flavors of our favorite types of Cannabis.
Like fine wines, it comes down to more than just the grapevine, as the soil, water, climate and even nearby crops and orchards can influence the final result. This not only keeps things interesting and constantly improving, it gives us an endless amount of opportunities to explore and savor new grows and new crops of our favorite varieties.
Now, excuse me while I kiss the sky.