In many circles, purple weed is prized far beyond its green-hued brethren. Many smokers will deliberately seek out purple cannabis, or “purps,” eschewing other strains regardless of potency or flavour. Sometimes this reputation is deserved – others, not so much. That begs the question: what exactly is it that makes weed purple? And is purple weed actually better than green weed?
In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into purple weed. First, we’ll look at what makes weed purple. Then, we’ll check out some of the best true purple strains and peel back the curtain on the impostors.
Purple Weed – What Is It?
Purple-coloured buds and flowers are a fairly new trait in cannabis. In fact, purps have only risen to prominence within the last two decades. Just like dogs, cats, and nearly every plant in the world, marijuana has been the subject of aggressive selective breeding by humans. One of the results of our genetic meddling is purps.
Anthocyanin: What Makes Weed Purple
The key to understanding purple weed lies with one molecule: anthocyanin. Derived from the Greek words meaning “flower” and “dark blue,” anthocyanin is a type of pigment and flavonoid common in many (but not all) strains of cannabis. Outside of marijuana, anthocyanin is commonly found in blackberries, acai, grapes, red cabbages, and numerous other plants. Anthocyanin is used worldwide as a food colouring in places like Australia, the European Union, and New Zealand.
Anthocyanin is the same molecule that’s responsible for making leaves and flowers change colours in the fall. Depending on factors like temperature and pH, anthocyanin can change a plant’s hue to a myriad of colours like red, orange, blue, and of course, purple.
Flushing To Turn Plants Purple
During the cannabis cultivation cycle, many growers commonly “flush” their plants right before harvest. Flushing sees growers feeding their plants significant amounts of water instead of nutrients. Flushing helps to clear any nutrient additives from the plant, leaving nothing but it’s natural flavour. In addition to purifying the plant’s flavour, flushing can serve another purpose: turning them purple.
If a grower flushes their plants with cold water that has a high pH, they can force their plants to turn purple. These conditions mimic the changes that the plant would experience as summer changes into fall, triggering the anthocyanin within it to change the plant’s colour. Without this artificially-induced step in the growing process, many strains would never exhibit purple colours.
You can try an experiment to prove this yourself. Order some pH up on the internet and mix it into a vessel of water. Then, add in some weed – you can use nugs, or if you have any leaves, they also work well. Mix the concoction, and you’ll see it start to turn blue as the anthocyanin reacts with the high-pH’d water.
While stoner lore dictates that purple weed is better than green-coloured weed plants, this isn’t actually the case. In fact, the conditions necessary to make weed turn purple in the first place – in particular, cold temperatures – can actually decrease a plant’s overall THC content. As a result, purple strains commonly have lower potency than green ones do when manipulated by growers.
Naturally Purple Strains
Some strains are naturally purple thanks to their cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Most of these strains share some common genetics with Mendocino Purps, one of the original purple strains.
Known by various names, including “Mendo Purps” or sometimes just “Purps,” Mendocino Purps is one of the original purple strains. It fairly reeled-in for an indica, and doesn’t threaten to couch-lock unwary stoners like many of its ilk.
This Northern California native was one of High Times’ Top 10 Strains of the Year in 2007. Its THC concentration rests somewhere within the low- to mid-teens – nothing to write home about. However, its purple colours captured the hearts and minds of a generation of stoners. Mendocino Purps is descended from an unknown North American Kush Indica plant, making most of its descendants (and therefore nearly every purple strain) highly indica-dominant.
This strain, believed to be a specific phenotype of Mendocino Purps, is one of the most visually stunning cannabis strains in the world. Even young Purple Urkle plants boast vibrant, pink- and purple-coloured buds completely devoid of any green tone at all. It’s a remarkable trait that you need to actually see to understand.
With a higher THC concentration than its cannabis cousin Mendocino Purps, Purple Urkle is beloved by fans of purple strains worldwide. Purple Urkle’s flavour profile is zesty and herbal, with piney and peppery notes to round it out.
In spite of its eminent name, Granddaddy Purple is a fairly new strain. Granddaddy Purple, also called Granddaddy Purp and GDP, traces its origins back to 2003. Breeder Ken Estes crossed Purple Urkle with Big Bud to create Granddaddy Purple’s genetics. It takes a bold, juicy flavour invoking tones of berries and grapes from its Purple Urkle lineage.
Known for its massive, deep purple buds, Granddaddy Purple has a heavier indica-leaning cannabinoid profile than Purple Urkle does. It’s highly relaxing, to the point of making users sleepy. However, it still boasts a rush of happy euphoria before sleep sets in, accompanied by increased appetite.
This cross between a Purple Thai plant and Haze isn’t a direct descendant of the Mendocino Purple line, making it fairly genetically unique. As a Thai descendant, Purple Haze has more of a sativa-leaning cannabinoid profile than the indica-heavy Mendocino Purp line.
Smokers report that Purple Haze provides an invigorating and uplifting high. It’s cranial and creative, but still provides great relaxation to its smokers. One downfall of this strain – nearly one-fifth of users reported dry eyes after using it.
Even if purple weed isn’t more potent than other strains, it offers a visually stunning smoking experience. Since anthocyanin is also a terpene, it may impart different, unique effects on the purple strains that contain it. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to partake in smoking some purps once in a while!