July 18, 2015

Behind the Strain | The Northern Lights – A history and inside look


The Northern Lights strain is a true icon and legend in the world of cannabis. Originally a very strong indica, however today some Northern Lights strains have been hybridized with Thai Sativas, mixing to produce great tasting smoke and highs that push into psychedelic.

The Northern Lights strains typically express a heavy indica dominant look when growing (short and bushy, wide fan leaves). However as a reminder of the strain’s genetic history, packs of Northern Lights seeds (phenotypes) may still sometime produce a strikingly sativa looking Northern Lights plant. 


History of the Northern Lights strain


Bred in Holland, the Northern Lights first make it’s way to the U.S. Pacific Northwest in 1985. It arrived in the hands of Neville Schoenmaker, who was the owner of The Seed Bank, which at the time was Holland’s oldest purveyor of cannabis seeds.

According to the an unnamed but credible source inside the company stated that Northern Lights seeds ended up in the hands of a man only known as “The Indian” who lived on an Island close to the city of Seattle. It came to a point that this mysterious man had bred and labeled 11 cannabis plants, all labeled with a single number.

Of the bunch, Northern Lights #5 was the pack leader with Northern Lights #1 taking second. These original Northern Lights plants were described to be true bred Afghanis, expressing their indica characteristics in the extreme.

Numerous and enormous bud stalks grew out of these deep dark green monsters which sat squat bushy plant. The buds themselves glistened in purple hues that mingled into the buds sugary coatings of THC crystals, sparkling from the lights It’s no wonder that these highly resinous plants were able to hit percentages of 15% or more THC.



Epic Genetic Spread


From here Neville Schoenmaker to female clones and seeds back to his seed bank in Holland and began offering a new assortment of Northern Lights strains. These hybridized strains have a murky beginning however it is said that Northern Lights #1 was kept closest to its indica and Afghani roots (IBL – inbred line). While others, notably #2, contained amounts of the Thai Sativa that was later more broadly incorporated into other the Northern Lights strains.

Two Northern Lights males have also proudly fathered several potent and exotic hybrids including the notoriously potent G-13 female as well as Big Bud, Skunk #1, Hash Plant and Haze.

The genetic lineage of Northern Lights plants can quickly become confounding, as now the entire genetic line so diverse but still also closely related and inbred. However, the Northern Lights #5 clone, considered the most superior plant of the pack, was said to never have been sold in seed form and would therefore be the only unaltered version of the original plants.

Because today there are so many unnumbered versions of the Northern Lights plant, breeders who want to get back to the originally of Northern Lights strain can use a technique called back-breeding to combine different hybrid varieties found today, resulting in a remix of original genetic history. There are only a handful of breeders who can truly offer high quality lineages of original Northern Lights strains like #5.




The Last Survivor


Among growers there is a rumor that a private Northern Lights cutting remains that is said to be the oldest surviving original. It is known as P91, standing for Poway Class of ’91, it’s said to be in Poway San Diego. This clone is supposedly the last link to the original Northern Lights #5 but anyway to confirm this would be next to impossible.


Simply put, The Northern Lights strain has been prolific in it’s contribution to modern cannabis and the varieties we see today.


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