Cannabis Encyclopedia strain review: Durban Poison


Ry Prichard.
Durban Poison.

Want to know more about the herb you’re smoking? So do we, so we’ve asked Ry Prichard – a fellow Colorado cannabis nerd, grower, photographer and founder of the Cannabis Encyclopedia project which aims to create a central database on cannabis strain information – to help school us all, strain-wise. This week? Durban Poison.

Durban Poison
Lineage: South African Sativa worked line
Type: Sativa-dominant
Overview: One of the building blocks of the modern cannabis genetic pool, Durban Poison has been passed through the hands of some of the most influential breeders and researchers of our time, yet remains a super-popular medical variety to this day.

Ry Prichard.
Durban Poison.

Durban Poison’s history goes all the way back to the late 1970’s in South Africa, where a young Ed Rosenthal was on the hunt for new genetics. The variety that he found was one of the earliest-finishing plants in the area (known for its equatorial Sativas), and he took home a variety of seeds from this locally cultivated genetic pool. Upon starting the seeds at home in the US, there was a fairly wide variety of expressions and flowering times, so Ed began the process of choosing his favorites and inbreeding the line to best bring out those characteristics.
Ed passed some seeds from his working of the Durban line to his friend Mel Frank for further work, which focused primarily on shortening the flowering time. Mel worked with several generations of the plants, again and again choosing the most resinous yet quickest plants and crossing them with one another. The resulting line yielded two choice phenotypes, which Mel dubbed the A and B, with the A being his favorite of the two.

Ry Prichard.
Durban Poison.

This is where Sam the Skunkman and Amsterdam come into this saga: Sam was gifted the B line from Mel Frank and took the seeds with him (along with the line that would become the Dutch Skunk #1) to Amsterdam for his first foray into the Holland seed business. Skunkman worked the line even further, again focusing on reducing flowering time so that Durban could finish outdoors in the short Dutch summer, which ended up being the main selling point of the strain in its early days. The seed lines were originally released by The Seed Bank (the precursor to Sensi Seeds) in the 1985 catalog, and from there vaulted to prominence around the world, especially among outdoor growers.
Durban has a very unique anise-kissed sweet smell and flavor that perfumes the air when smoked and leaves a sweet aftertaste lingering in the mouth. The buds are round and chunky, and the modern phenotypes that are most common also have a thick coating of short-stalked, big-headed trichomes which cover almost all surfaces. It is a wonderful variety for water hash for that reason – lots of heads and not much trich stem and cystolith hair content makes for top quality full-melt extracts.
Durban is legendary for its almost electric effects package, which fills the user with a buzzing energy and a flurry of mental activity. It is the perfect variety for a productive day, as it is strong but tends to stay out of the way of most mental processes, allowing for a high level of functionality. But it would be a drag to spend a Durban-filled day doing nothing but working, as it is the type of effect that makes the user want to go outside and enjoy themselves. It increases sociability and is a perfect companion to a long conversation, a hike, or even a solo session with something like a good book or videogame. Most users find themselves pacing or standing up and sitting down repeatedly because it comes with such a high dose of energy.

Ry Prichard.
Durban calyx closeup.

Few strains in cannabis history have the amount of work and history behind them as the Durban Poison, and it shows in its enduring qualities. Patients who seek a true Sativa experience continue to ask for the Durban all around the country. In Colorado, it has been and remains one of the most-requested varieties on dispensary shelves, making it a nearly indispensable part of a shop’s strain repertoire. For growers, its easy and fast-flowering nature combined with its above-average production and resin content levels make it a no-brainer choice to have in the garden.
It has also shown great potential for crossing with other varieties, making its way into a variety of award-winning hybrids around the globe.
Cannabis Encyclopedia is our column which seeks to educate about the wide variety of strains available on the market. Ry Prichard is the writer, photographer, and researcher behind, an extensive web portal of cannabis information. He spends most of his days navigating the weed jungles of Colorado.