Shakespeare famously quipped “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” The same could be said about your favorite strain of flower. Still, many of the most popular strains in Denver are arguably enhanced by their catchy names, especially those verging on the silly and strange. Who gets the fantastic honor of bestowing Squiblica or Schnazzleberry into our lexicon? What goes into the process of penning the perfect name? As a writer for a smoke shop and lover of the ridiculous, these are the questions that keep me up at night. While the science behind growing and cultivating the very best bud is incredibly intricate, naming is formulaic and thoughtful in its own right – though seemingly much more fun. We’ll briefly answer your top questions about strain-naming and hit you with the highlights of its history.
Spreading Some Roots
In the 1960s and 1970s, modern cannabis naming spiked with an insurgence of strains from an international market. At this point in American history, cannabis culture was boosted by the import of breeds beloved by growers across the globe. These first imports are called landrace crosses. By incorporating strains from a diverse range of climates and regions, industry workers of the era were able to enrich the biodiversity available throughout the United States. The introduction of landrace strains subsequently expanded and improved all aspects of the local market – including yield sizes and pest resistance. The diversity of strains was also notably improved by landrace crosses, as they ultimately spurned thousands of new hybrids. And with thousands of strains to keep track of, naming enables us to delineate the roots of a hybrid’s ancestors or other essential components. Landrace strains were generally given names to honor their original homeland, like Thailand's Thai, Laos' Luang Prabang and Colombia's Colombian Gold. While these won’t be found in a head shop, the smoke shop industry at large owes credit to strains that improved the biodiversity for adult American cannabis users.
What’s In A Name?
Some strains shout out pop culture references, like Scroopy Noopers (aw Jeez, Rick) and the Colorado-bred Bruce Banner. Then there are those honoring celebrities or moments in our shared history. For instance, Michael Phelps OG references the former Olympian’s water pipe scandal. A vaporizer would’ve been more subtle, Phelps, but hindsight’s 20/20. There’s even an Obama Kush, as a comical nod to our former President’s younger years. Prolific fan Tommy Chong is given the perfect toast with Chong Star (he really loves to get toasted). Trailblazing author and advocate Jack Herer is also paid a well-earned tribute.
Other names reference distinct scents or flavor profiles. For example, Blueberry Kush smells as sweet as it sounds, while Skunk No. 1 gives fair warning. Others allude to the effects of the weed itself. You might guess that many users of Laughing Buddha report feeling giggly and uplifted, while Blue Dream is much more mellow.
Breeders themselves usually do the honor of naming their own new strains. This seems to be for the best, as breeders know their bud most intimately, especially before the public’s had their chance to get acquainted. On the other hand, breeding and marketing are different skill sets, and branding bud is trickier than it may appear.
For a name to last, it needs to incorporate some key element of the plant, while helping catch the interest of potential consumers. Capturing a strain’s essence can’t increase the quality of the plant itself, but it can help a strain find the right market and flourish as a result. A strain once called “Cush” embodied the curse of a product which was unduly given a bad name. As a Sativa-dominant blend with a fruity flavor, those who mistook it for a derivative of Indica-heavy Kush were disappointed, as the two shared no ancestral overlap. Thankfully, things worked out for poor Cush when Snoop Dogg gave it a try and was floored by its energizing effects, famously dubbing it “Green Crack.” Thanks to the rebranding and credible endorsement, Green Crack no longer has a bad rap - it ranks among the most popular strains around.
The Game of the Name
While breeders generally get naming rights by default, that’s not the only option. As we just illustrated, some strains become so popularly known by a nickname that it washes over the original. One site Straingenerator.com automatically generates names for new strains, comically aligning with detailed descriptions of the effects of each strain. While the strains and profiles generated are entirely fictional, it’s an entertaining glimpse at the naming process, and it just might inspire real versions one day. Some freelancers even offer to help find the perfect name for those who’ve come up short.
Whether or not Shakespeare’s words ring true, naming celebrates new strains as they arise, imbuing them with history, evoking imagery, and sometimes giving us a laugh. Whatever their stories, thousands of unique names collectively signify the richness of our shared culture.
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