Delighted as Purple Punch: A Genealogy of the ‘Purps’ Marijuana Family
Leafly is celebrating the 50th anniversary of “4:20” (aka “420” or 4/20) this April with a celebration of legendary ancestral families. We already have famous hazes and those Tangie family. In this episode we show our pride for the purps.
Purple means the color of royalty and, in the case of cannabis, mysticism.
On the pharmacy shelves, purple means hot, powerful, and trendy herb – a stoner truism since at least the 90s. To date, some weed lovers in the US only buy purple cannabis.
But how did Purples become cannabis king? Leafly delves into the murky origins of ‘The Purps’.
Zkittlez’s ancestry is suspected, not confirmed. But if you like purps you should give it a try. Tap or click to open and save a large version of this poster. Happy 420! (Leafly)
Real purple, please get up
Despite its immortality in rap songs by the likes of Drake and Juicy J and numerous Cannabis Cup awards, good luck finding old school purple weed on a pharmacy shelf.
Breeders like “Ghost” from ABF Genetics and companies like Purple City Genetics of Oakland, CA told Leafly that there are multiple generations of purple weeds and that it is not obvious to determine the true value from the fugazi cuts.
PCG’s Eric Rosen viewed Purple Urkle, Mendocino Purps, Granddaddy Purple, Silverback, and Lavender as leading the original wave of Purple popularity in the early to mid-2000s. A lot has changed since then, with many behind the scenes viewing the 2020s as the perfect time for a purple revival.
Colors alone can be deceiving
Identifying members of the Purps cannabis family involves more than just choosing a color.
Several sources told Leafly that a purple color alone cannot tell whether a strain is descended from the true purples. Sometimes even Granddaddy Purple doesn’t come out purple!
Grandfather Lila in 2013 (David Downs)
Long-time breeder Todd McCormick of Authentic Genetics Seed Co. said, “Afghan genetics are the genetics responsible for the purple colors in wide leaflet cannabis. Nobody made purple cannabis; Mother nature is solely responsible. “
The purple term, he told Leafly, comes from the plant pigment “anthocyanin,” a compound that is also found in blueberries and raspberries. This pigment molecule creates color, not taste – although scientists classify anthocyanins as a type of “flavonoid” and you would automatically think of “taste”.
“If it’s all about temperature, it’s not purple.”
Ghost, ABF Genetics
Scientists at PCG agreed, telling Leafly that many strains can be made purple in bloom in cold temperatures or different lighting.
“It is well known that regulating temperature during the development of cannabis flowers has an impact on anthocyanin production, and we know from other plants that the spectrum of light can also have such an effect,” said the PCG team.
Cultivation techniques and seasonal fluctuations such as winter growth or cold spells can catalyze color changes. However, according to Ghost of ABF, it’s not purple when it comes to temperature alone.
Great grape flavor, pain relieving reports
Due to its Landrace Kush parentage, Purple is a reported pain abuser. Patients in the early days of the California medical marijuana program loved not only the grape-heavy taste, but how effective and functional the high was.
Jeffrey Oropeza, marketing executive at the premier nursery school Dark Heart Nursery in Oakland, CA, said, “GDP has always been valued for its dark color and taste, but its impact makes it very special. Instead of numbing everything like most heavy indicators do, GDP just makes things stop hurting. “
Growers Will Perry and Adriana Carlile, founders of Magic Hour Cannabis in Oregon, recalled hearing about Granddaddy Purple in their New York home and how hard it was to verify. “It stands out; it’s an immediate pull,” they said.
Tracking the origins of Purps
Rumors abound when it comes to pinpointing where purple is from, but our sources, from Ghost at ABF to Eric Rosen of Purple City Genetics to Dark Heart Nursery and McCormick, agree that the Bay Area Purples put on the map.
McCormick recalled seeing circulating cuts of Purple Kush, a cross between Hindu Kush and Afghanistan, in the mid-1990s, and attributed them to Trichome Technologies’ Kenneth Morrow. Mendo Purps and its phenotypes Purple Urkle and Lavender come from Purple Kush.
It wasn’t until years later, in the early 2000s, that Granddaddy Purple emerged. It offered the same purple appeal, but was easier to grow than its predecessors thanks to its higher-yielding Big Bud parent.
Dark Heart acquired a GDP cut attributed to breeder Ken Estes in 2003, but Ghost pointed out, “Nobody in the bay ever called it that.”
“Ken’s GDP” erupts
In an interview with Kush Magazine, Estes said his GDP drop was due to crossing Skunk strains to express purple traits for looks, taste and effects. Estes also said the Humboldt County, CA Native American communities shared it with him.
All cannabis strain families contain varying degrees of this taxonomic chaos – breeders claiming an existing strain name for a new strain, or naming two different strains with the same name, or renaming an old strain with five new names, and so on and so forth.
Vintage 2014 Grape Ape – Child of GDP – shows the density and color of an Indica. (David Downs)
“Because of this genetic labeling discrepancy, it’s very difficult for writers and historians like me to take origin stories within the cannabis community that seriously,” said McCormick.
Overall, Purple’s exotic appearance and grape-laden terps made up its downsides: cloudy origins and a longer, less productive flower cycle. Purple persisted in the 2000s.
Cookies marry in the purps
As the Cookies strain family gained popularity, breeders crossed them into the dominant purple strains and created:
Both provide dark tones and sweeter flavors. Cherry Pie is also a parent of other varieties of purple ancestry that have a lot of flavor but less impact, like the Tangie-Forward Forbidden Fruit.
However, as laboratory testing and access to cannabinoid content emerged, quality became a matter of metrics rather than the integrity of the facility.
As Rosen put it, “Testing killed purple. Even the best cuts have never been tested above 16-17% THC. “
Purple Punch has pocket appeal, but no punch. (David Downs)
The purples coming out today are strains contiguous with purple that Ghost said commercial breeding is “watered down”. They can deliver the same grape flavors and purples, but lack that euphoric body hum.
The most beloved? Probably Purple Punch, a kid of GDP and Larry OG, who is loved for pocket appeal, great nose, and good yields, but without that analgesic quality.
A royal future for purps
Despite a decade out of the spotlight, Purple’s new offspring have space in the recreational market, and Purple’s growing demand extends well beyond California.
Will Perry and Adriana Carlile of Magic Hour Cannabis said customers love their farm’s “T1000” strain, a hybrid of Purple Urkle and Triangle Kush bred by Archive Nursery.
Purple City Genetics also felt it was time for a Purple City revival. Expect the California 2022 crop to include their own genetic innovations like Grasshopper – a purple variety from Runtz and Gush Mints – and new crosses from Watermelon Zkittlez and Zookies.
Steve Urkel enters the chat
In 2021, cannabis aficionados will also see purple weed get cheeky endorsement from the inspiration for the strain name Purple Urkle.
Actor, comedian and producer Jaleel White, who played TV character Steve Urkel on Family Matters, who steals the scene, applauds his cultural influence on cannabis.
As a pandemic project, White and his friend and business partner Brad Melshenker of 710 Labs searched for an amazing variety of purple and perfected their curation of purple genetics. The plan?
The first drop of “It’s PurpL” on April 20th – a series of 8-ounce flowers, pre-roll packs, and living resin vaporizer pens from three purple offerings:
- The classic Purple Urkle;
- A new cross called Stefan von Urkle x The White (Like Jaleel’s name, understood?);
- and a Mendo Purps x Zkittlez.
“It’s the culture,” White told Leafly. “It’s as much an initiative as celebrating purples. I am honored to be associated with the branding. “
A timeline of purple cannabis strains
1960s to 1980s: Hippies are bringing back dense, dark, resinous, broad-leaved cannabis from the foothills of the Himalayas in Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush region to the United States
1990s: Northern California counties such as Mendocino and Humboldt refine foreign seed supplies for the local climate and users, increasing potency, flavor, and color. Purple Kush sires Mendocino Purps what Granddaddy Purple sires.
2000s: Ken Estes popularizes “Ken’s GDP” which uses Skunk instead of Afghani and Kush. Purple tribes rule the pharmacy shelves in California.
2009: Rapper Juicy J’s song “Purple Kush” debuts
2010s: Purple Punch’s debut is blowing up a nationwide bubble in the cultivation and production of the strain. Supplies rise, quality falls and the bubble bursts.
2017: Wiz Khalifa and Drake’s song “Purple Flowers” make their debut
2019: Rapper Smokepurpp’s first studio album, Deadstar 2, debuts
2021: 710 Labs and Steve Urkel actor Jaleel White are preparing the “It’s PurpL” flower line for California shops
Do you have a favorite variety of purple? Let Leafly know in the comments.
Freelance cannabis journalist Amelia Williams is a longtime budget tenderer and a graduate of San Francisco State University’s journalism program. Williams has contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s GreenState, MG Magazine, Culture Magazine, and Cannabis Now, and is the author of the Barbary Coast Pharmacy’s Bud Blog.
Show article by Amelia Williams
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