Growing Durban Poison: Soaring Sativa Marijuana from Africa

Durban Poison! For long-time cannabis growers and users, this is a legendary marijuana strain that has been beloved for at least 40 years.

The strain comes from the “lost continent” of cannabis: Africa. While marijuana genetics from Southeast Asia, Latin America, Jamaica, the Middle East and India dominate the pantheon of famous foundational marijuana strains, Africa has been neglected.

This neglect is sad, because Africa has many landrace cannabis strains and a lengthy tradition of marijuana growing by urbanites and rural tribal people. Durban Poison is a pure landrace Sativa originally grown in the backcountry near Durban, South Africa. Durban is a port city on the Indian Ocean. It has what’s described as a subtropical climate, about 40 inches of rain per year, and warm temperatures year-round. Sunlight is intense here, and it’s a rather dangerous city, with periodic bursts of violence and theft.

In the rural countryside where marijuana (Africans call it “dagga) is grown, Durban Poison was discovered by a cannabis adventurer during the early 1970s and seeds from the tall, thin-leaved plants were brought to America. There, the strain was inbred for several years to tame its excessive height, vine-like weak branches, and long bloom phase. The earliest versions of Durban Poison grew very tall, had extremely thin leaves, and bud development was defective, with long, running calyx clusters and few resin glands. This isn’t how Durban Poison performs today.

One main attraction of the original Durban Poison is that the resins produced a soaring, powerful, nearly-psychedelic high. After American and Dutch breeders worked and stabilized these genetics, the strain retained most of that Sativa high, but was easier to grow because its height and bloom phase had been significantly decreased, while the density and potency of its buds had been greatly increased.

Unfortunately, it has been difficult for today’s cannabis growers to get authentic Durban Poison either as a clone or as seeds. Only a handful of marijuana seeds companies sell Durban Poison seeds. One company that claims to be based in Africa and sells only African strains such as Malawi Gold and Swazi offers a Durban Poison that it says requires 90-120 days in bloom phase. Dutch Passion offers a Durban Poison that it says is a 100% pure in-bred landrace that tends to go a little purple in bloom phase and only needs 8-9 weeks to finish.

Several other seed companies also offer Durban Poison, but when you read their strain descriptions, you can be pretty sure that what they’re selling is NOT Durban Poison. One company claims to be selling a “pure landrace Sativa” but later on in their strain description they say the strain is an “Indica-Sativa hybrid.” This is the kind of confusing bullshit I see from too many cannabis seed companies, and it’s one reason I write articles only about seed companies that are in my experience absolutely trustworthy.

Growing Durban Poison Marijuana

I’ve grown alleged Durban Poison marijuana seeds from five seed companies. By far the most satisfactory Durban Poison version I grew is from an American company called New420Guy Seeds. This is a feminized-only version. It had impressive phenotype consistency, which is a sign of good breeding.

I grew New420Guy Durban Poison indoors in a soilless mix under LED grow lights. My feed program consisted of Dragonfly Earth Medicine and Biotabs. These are two different brands of “veganic” nutrients and supplements. Veganic is a combination of organic and vegan. It means the fertilizers and supplements I fed my Durban Poison were derived from organically-grown plants, and didn’t contain synthetics, GMOs, or guano, bone meal, blood meal and other dead animal parts commonly found as the majority of components in so-called organic fertilizers.

[Look for a longer article about veganic growing that our team is working on. It’s a unique, revolutionary way of feeding plants that in several important ways is easier and more effective than using hydroponic or organic feed programs.]

The Durban Poison plants were strong and sturdy from their earliest seedling phase all the way through bloom phase. I only gave them 30 days in grow phase because Durban Poison stretches a lot at the beginning of bloom phase. The plants were an average of 30 inches tall when I started bloom phase, but were an average of 61 inches tall when I harvested them.

I topped them at 25 days to tame the height and increase yield. This created a finished morphology of a double-cola on top and substantial side colas below. I’ve grown other brands of Durban Poison that had weak side branches and needed extensive support.

One very positive feature of the New420Guy Durban Poison is that it had the densest buds of any Durban Poison brand I’ve grown, and almost all the side branches and all the top cola branches were strong enough to support the buds without me needing to trellis, cage or otherwise help them. Only the very lowest branches at the bottom of plants drooped due to the weight of the buds, so I tied them to the main stalk so they’d stay vertical and catch more light.

Another positive feature is that bud development was from top to bottom of the plants, and filled the branches. Internodes were very short, so little branch space was wasted.

When I switched to bloom phase, I dropped to 11.5 hours of light per day because Sativa strains sometimes need less than 12 hours of light per day to trigger and maintain flowering. Female pre-flowers were already showing, and early flowering commenced within two weeks of starting bloom phase light cycle. The plants were in peak bloom by 35th day of bloom phase and continued to build resin glands and bud size until peak ripeness and harvest day, which was 63 days after the start of bloom phase.

Harvesting & Using Durban Poison Cannabis

Durban Poison buds gave off a changing range of scents and had different coloration and other visual appeal as bloom phase progressed. Delicious and potent aromas of lime, lemon, pepper, pine, and candy were evident at different times and in different ratios, and these scents transferred into the taste of the dried buds when I inhaled them using a precision vaporizer in a temperature range from 380-420°F. I find myself loading up my vaporizer and “sipping” Durban Poison vapor–that’s how sweet the taste is!

These Durban Poison buds were thicker and had a larger circumference than most other Sativa strains produce. One would almost suspect that an Afghani or other Indica or Afghanica had been bred into the strain to increase bud thickness and resin gland formation, but the breeder says this isn’t true, that the strain is a pure African Sativa.

Harvest weight was very impressive for a Sativa strain. The top producer yielded a few grams shy of seven ounces, which is fantastic for a Sativa strain grown indoors. The breeder notes that the strain is also successfully grown outdoors, where it can get 15-feet tall and produce several kilos per plant. Durban Poison’s built-in hardiness and resistance to pests, molds and mildews account its outdoor success, and were also evident in my grow room—other strains growing at the same time had problems with mites and gray mold, but the Durban Poison didn’t.

Note that this strain can handle more light intensity and higher grow room temperatures than the majority of other strains, and does best when you give it a larger-than-average root zone. It’s not the kind of strain you’d grow in sea of green or a limited-height grow tent or chamber.

The Durban Poison high is often described as stimulating, long-lasting, psychedelic, soaring, energizing, creative, clean, bubbly and functional. In my past experiences using other Durban Poison brands, those adjectives were accurate.

When I sampled my New420Guy Durban Poison, I understood why the strain has the word “poison” in it. I don’t mean this in a negative way. The high is very enjoyable and attractive, putting the New420Guy Durban buds into my favorites category when I’m selecting buds from my bud refrigerator, which right now has 17 strains in it.

So let me explain what I mean regarding “poison.” It helps to remember that the marijuana high is a form of intoxication. Dissect that word and you see it’s saying that you have taken in something “toxic.” Cannabis isn’t toxic in the fatal sense of the word. But it does achieve its effects by throwing a knockout punch to your endocannabinoid system, flooding your body’s neurochemical networks with massive doses of external cannabinoids in a way that overwhelms your body and mind. This overwhelming flooding is why you feel high within a few minutes of inhaling cannabis, and why the high almost completely changes your perceptions of your mind and body.

Many popular “recreational” drugs create a temporary toxic event. If you’ve ever used psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, or alcohol, you’ve felt some facets of a body’s reaction to toxicity and poison. Alcohol is actually toxic–it can kill you.

Common cannabis intoxication reactions can include changes in how your body responds to mental commands, slowness, couchlock, paranoia, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, panic, slurred speech, blurred vision, heart rate effects, goofiness, poor coordination, and other feelings that in a different context could be perceived as worrisome signs that you’ve been poisoned.

Whether or not you experience intoxication as mostly pleasurable or somewhat troubling depends on your mindset and what intoxicant you used. The first time I used New420Guy Durban Poison, there was no creeper effect. I started inhaling bud vapor through my Arizer V-Tower vape whip and within seconds my whole body felt like it was energized and paralyzed at the same time.

My head and mind expanded to the point where my head felt like it might explode from intracranial pressure. Despite all these disconcertingly powerful effects, I also experienced a pervasive euphoria and realized that I had been smiling and laughing ever since the high started.

When I finished my vaping session and got up to walk around and do yoga, my limbs felt weightless, or as heavy as a lead zeppelin. If I got up off the floor quickly, I experienced a head rush and a pulsing body effect that would have likely caused novice cannabis users to faint or at least fall down.

I spent an hour closely observing the peak Durban Poison high, marveling at the awesome complexity of it, comparing it to my other favorite highs (such as Haze strains) and recognizing that of all the Durban Poison I’ve grown and used, this one was the strongest and most interesting.

One of the most favorable aspects is that although Durban Poison produced a stream of creativity and positive thoughts, it didn’t produce racing thoughts, anxiety or paranoia as many Sativa marijuana strains do. It seems crazy to say it, but it actually has an overall calming effect. The euphoric happiness was so potent that I felt like I was in a pleasant waking dream.

The high lasted 2.5 hours and tapered off without the burnout and mental fog I often get with other cannabis strains. I can see this strain being used medicinally by people with depression, ADHD, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, nausea, PTSD and appetite loss. It’s also great recreationally—perfect for concerts, making music, socializing, exercising, doing yoga, and getting chores done.

Along with other heritage marijuana such as  AK-47, Skunk, Northern Lights, Haze, and Diesel strains, Durban Poison is one of those you’ve always heard about. If you’ve grown it before using seeds from other seed companies, or if you’ve never grown it before, you’ll be most pleased by growing the New420Guy feminized photoperiod version of this strain, which in my experience is the best Durban Poison brand on the market. As an added bonus, New420Guy offers lower prices than most seed companies, and is among the few honest seed companies run by people who are growers themselves and understand the needs of growers when it comes to seed reliability, strain phenotype consistency, and customer service.