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Origin Of A Name: Super Lemon Haze

By Colin Gordon and Ben Owens

People love renaming cuts. Anything to add that marketing appeal to an existing variety which is why we end up with plants that are supposedly the same but vary greatly in expression. It’s especially common when strains are rebranded, as was the case of Super Lemon Haze.

Real Sativas, no matter where they are from, are very similar genetically but may be vary different in expression based on where they grow. In earlier years of cannabis, genetics primarily came out of India and surrounding areas. Humans have been cannabis adjacent for so many 1000s of years that a lot of distinct cultivars have come along in certain areas but genetically, it seems everything traces back to India and the Kush mountains.

When traders and explorers traveled the world, they brought these seeds with them. As a result, distinctive cultivars grown in different regions began to showcase these expressions, some of which took particular names for those cuts while others were outright renamed as was the case with Super Lemon Haze, a strain name that has been used loosely enough as to create confusion surrounding its true origins. ETHOS is the only genetics company to have bred Male/Female packs of Super Lemon Haze (F5), and that’s largely a result of personal frustrations with inconsistent labeling and breeding practices in early seed markets.

Super Lemon Haze - Amsterdam 2008

Over the course of 2008-2010, I made three trips to Holland in the span of about a year. The first time, I went with a small bankroll in my pockets to buy seeds, funded largely by poker tour money. The second time, we came prepared for larger purchases, and set up meetings with breeders and brokers in advance to place wholesale-size orders. We talked to Greenhouse, DNA and a variety of well-known seed companies. A friend of mine in Holland (who shall remain nameless) began to introduce me to the people actually breeding, actually making the seeds.

As I was introduced to people like Franco and Arjan of Greenhouse, the dichotomy of businessman and breeder became apparent. Arjan was business, his role was to grow Greenhouse and his own “King of Cannabis” brand through whatever means necessary. Franco was the real deal, he was an incredibly gracious, super nice dude who loved that plant and he really knew it better than most. At the time, I was paying cash for bulk seeds and would buy 100 Super Lemon Haze, 100 of this, 100 of that. By my third trip, my meetings with wholesalers and seed makers started lending themselves to conflicting stories about Super Lemon Haze.

Seed Stories

With every genetic, especially those from older seed banks and breeders, there’s always a handful of origin stories. There’s the story you’re told at the coffee shop, the story you hear at the seed shop, the stories you hear from people and the stories from the actual Dutch people who were there.

One story of Super Lemon Haze goes that it is just a specific phenotype of Super Silver Haze that was selfed (S1). At the time, I didn’t really care where it came from, I wasn’t Dutch, and I just wanted good seeds and I think that’s why people kept telling me these stories. But no matter who I asked and where I looked, I could not get any male/female seeds of any of it.

The more I asked, the more the stories narrowed. At first, I was told that the official story was a cross of SSH with a Lemon Skunk that had come from Colorado. This was 2009, and Colorado’s industry was considerably smaller and closer-knit than it is now. After some digging, I learned that the Lemon Skunk was actually Lemonman’s cut.

At that point, this suspicion was confirmed and I was told by that seed-maker that it was a Jack Herer x Lemon Skunk. I started asking the breeders which plant they reversed to make the cut, only to be told that they couldn’t remember or didn’t know. Some would even say that they used male/female seed packs but Lemonhead’s Lemon Skunk is a clone only variety, which is highly verifiable.

So I continued to ask, "Did you reverse SSH and then run those and then pick one to S1?” Then, all the stories started changing again because they knew that I knew how seed making worked. Once that understanding was reached, the answers started trending towards things like “Well, you know how it is.”

I used to get that all the time in the US; we were renaming everything. I totally knew how it was and I think that’s why they told me the truth: everyone renames everything. At the time, numbers confused people, so breeders started to give names to distinctly different phenotypes. Back then, everyone was renaming Flo. It was almost like a sport - “what can I come up with for Flo?” I always called mine “Not Flo ;)”.

Bad Blood in the Seed Game

Because I wasn’t interested in the seed politics and was simply there to buy quality seeds, I had been introduced to very well known breeders, including a few older gentlemen who had been around the industry for some time and shed light on what was really going on with genetics, breeders, and the conflicting reports.

There is a lot of bad blood among seed companies, particularly against Greenhouse; everyone had something bad to say about Arjan. I didn’t know Dutch politics or that he had taken other genetics and renamed them and that that was how he had started Greenhouse. Although I found it entertaining, I just wanted good seeds.

Two Super Lemon Hazes

While smoking in this scene, I got to know the wife of an older gentleman who held court, so to speak and we started talking about Super Lemon Haze. He had his own seed company, revealed what was going on behind the curtain and revealed what other companies were doing. He said there are two SLH you can buy.

This man had bred a lot of cannabis and bred a lot of cannabis I hadn’t seen before, so it was interesting to hear about different varieties that I had never heard of. He mentioned that in the late 1990s, there were a lot of people taking varieties from a well known Holland breeder (whom I had never heard of) and then starting seed companies and renaming those varieties. This was 10 years after Greenhouse was established with varieties that Arjan had nothing to do with or made at all.

Greenhouse's Outsourced Breeding Project

While Arjan has made a reputation for himself that may be less than flattering, Franco was the opposite: a pretty content dude, who knew he was a commodity but someone to whom I’ve yet to meet a parallel. Franco was a public face for Greenhouse’s effort but remained humble; he didn’t mind the spotlight but he didn’t chase it. He just loved talking about cannabis.

Around this time and through my talks with Franco, I learned that Greenhouse was outsourcing some of the seeds that they were selling. They would find someone with a grow, give them clones, tell them which plants to reverse and which plants to clone. Because of this, there were different batches and different cuts, so there’s different SLH that people got, which is why several stories exist.

The end result was discovering that SLH was really a lemon pheno of SSH that Greenhouse had to use at some point because the actual SLH cross was a M/F Jack Herer (not SSH) into the Lemon Skunk. The most commonly seen SLH cross is Jack Herer (Sensi Seed Bank) x Lemon Skunk (US Clone).

Greenhouse had simply wanted to make SSH look better by rebranding it to help win cups. They had a couple keepers that they were reversing, resulting in different genetics under the same moniker because different people were selfing different cuts that were all sold as SLH. The cuts people buy now are unequivocally different than the cuts they used to use and according to the people I knew, who knows how many different SLH Greenhouse has actually put out.

ETHOS Super Lemon Haze

Since noone seemed to be able to point to a true Jack Herer x Lemon Skunk cross, I decided that I would remake Super Lemon Haze because I had the 1994 Sensi Seed Bank male/female Jack Herer seeds and I had the Lemon Skunk clone from Lemonhead. I used an actual Jack Herer male and hit an actual Lemon Skunk with the pollen. Because SLH had always been one of my favorites, I was willing to work the seeds to find the expression I was looking for, that true, SLH profile.

When breeding, certain characteristics blend perfectly right away. By the time I got to SLH F3, I knew it was going to be easy to stabilize. Depending on the parents, an F3 can still present quite a bit of variation whereas others reach F3 and there’s maybe 2 distinct phenotypes. With SLH, consistency was really dialed in by F3.

The trick with breeding is noticing dominant genetics. Jack Herer is a really dominant genetic, as is Super Silver Haze. Anything back-crossed with a Jack will show dominant Jack traits. You might get hints of the other parent but it’s likely coming out Jack. With the SLH, I had to identify the SLH phenotype that I was familiar with and work to stabilize that expression.

Today, if you’re looking for a true Super Lemon Haze, you have just as good of a chance now as you did then because it’s just a name.