The Origins of White Widow
The origin of the White Widow strain is quite well known, although its history is problematic. This most famous plant has since its birth in 1994 won a number of awards, including first place in the 1995 High Times Cannabis Cup. Known to be highly resinous and extremely potent, the plant has the ability to humble even the most experienced smoker and has been used in the making of countless new hybrids, always improving on quality.
This strain was first released by Shantibaba shortly after he founded the Green House Seed Company in 1994 in collaboration with a Dutch partner called Arjan. The pedigree of this famous sativa/indica hybrid is made up of a pure Brazilian sativa mother and a South Indian, Keralan hybrid father. The exact origins of the mother plant remains somewhat of a mystery but the most educated guess is that it could possibly be the old school, pure Brazilian landrace sativa Manga Rosa, which has a long history of spiritual use. The Father was discovered during a trip to India where Shantibaba was approached by a man, who after sharing a joint with him, eventually led him to his farm in the mountains of Kerala. The farmer then introduced him to a indica hybrid that had been selectively cultivated and bred towards optimum resin production in his village for a very long time. After several days of sampling the farmers plants, Shantibaba left for the Netherlands with a batch of fresh seeds, from which he was to discover the male for his White Widow cross. He eventually bred it to the Brazilian Sativa mother, forming the spectacular union that countless gardens across the globe have been blessed with ever since.
While working alongside Neville Schoenmaker (the father of Dutch seed banks) on joint projects, several new hybrids with superior genetics were established. Some of the stock that they used dated back to the early days of the Seed Bank that Neville himself had founded, a company that later became reformed under new ownership and known as Sensi Seeds. During the time when the White Widow was created, Shantibaba and Neville concentrated on the breeding aspect of the business while Arjan, not being a breeder himself, was left in charge of promotion and sales. After some conflict of interests between the owners, Shantibaba sold his half of the Green House Seed Company to Arjan in 1998 and left for Switzerland to form the Mr. Nice seed bank, taking the original White Widow parents with him.
Dispensing with the somewhat theatrical tactics of his competitor, the master breeder Shantibaba then concentrated on supplying growers with superior quality strains from both old and new world genetics. The exceptional quality of his products can hardly be disputed by anyone. He started breeding the Widow under the flag of his newly formed brand and gave it the name Black Widow as the name White Widow was already being marketed by Arjan over at Green House Seeds. This is where the history of the strain becomes problematic. Shantibaba discovered many of his strains while working under the Green House label but apparently never shared the parental stock of his strains with anyone. This would indicate that he alone is in possession of the original parents of the Widow. Nevertheless, the Green House Seed Company still offer many of his and Neville’s strains, claiming that they are from original stock. Most notable of these strains are the White Widow (Black Widow), White Rhino (Medicine Man), Great White Shark (Shark Shock), El Nino (La Niña), Neville’s Haze and Super Silver Haze.
Not without a sense of irony, many of these plants have accumulated an impressive amount of awards for the Green House Seed Company over the years. The fact however remains that all these plants can be traced back to the original breeders Shantibaba and Neville, who in an attempt to avoid confusion, renamed some of their strains. Sadly, despite their efforts, confusion and contradiction ensued and several people came crawling out of the woodwork, claiming to have created the now already popular White Widow strain.
According to an interview for the German cannabis magazine Grow; a breeder named Ingemar also takes all the credit for inventing the White Widow strain. The perhaps self-proclaimed, ‘Father of the White Widow’ also offer his own version of the plant and several hybrids like the notoriously potent Ingemar’s Punch through the DeSjamaan seed bank and the White Widow Web. He is also working closely with Arjan over at Green House Seeds, supplying him with the allegedly only and true genetics of the White Widow strain. Although secretive about the lineage of this version of the Widow, it soon becomes apparent that Ingemar’s creation is of totally different pedigree than the original plant which Shantibaba invented. Ingemar claims that the genetics for the Widow were found among some hand rubbed hashish and that the plant was then worked on for some 6 years before the strain was released. The earliest descriptions on the White Widow were however made by Shantibaba himself so the authenticity and genetic make up of this parallel version of the Widow remains a mystery.
Today almost every breeder and seed bank sell seeds that they claim to be the original White Widow. In 1996, both the Nirvana and Dutch Passion seed companies purchased a single pack of White Widow seeds from Shantibaba himself at the Green House Seed Company and within a year released their own versions of the Widow. Undoubtedly all very potent and nice plants, the question whether or not all the White Widow plants on the market today can actually be considered pure remains highly speculative since the only true parental stock remain in the sole care of Shantibaba and the Mr. Nice seed bank.
Why so many different breeders blatantly claim to have personally invented this strain is puzzling although understandable due to its commercial success. New breeders keep emerging, claiming authority over the White Widow strain, including a breeder called Ecotronics who also boldly states that everybody is making money off the seed line that he himself invented. There can be only one truth, however hazy it has become over the years.
Since so many labels claim to have the original version, we are faced with a problem; which version of the White Widow to get? The answer is that if you are looking for the original White Widow, first released some 15 years ago, you should go for the Black Widow from Mr. Nice. If Shantibaba indeed holds the only parents of this plant, which seems highly plausible, the only true and original White Widow plant that can be found on the market today is the Black Widow from his seed line.
Latrodectus mactans, also known as the southern Black Widow spider was the primary taxonomy used to describe the three species of spiders commonly referred to as the Black Widow spider prior to the early 1970’s. Unknown to most, there exists three species of the North American Black Widow spider. Along with Latrodectus mactans, the Latrodectus variolus (northern Black Widow) and Latrodectus hesperus (western Black Widow) are considered species of the North American Black Widow spider, not to be confused of course, with the false Black Widow spider. Such is the case with the infamous White Widow variety of cannabis, a strain of marijuana whose pedigree ultimately consists of a union between a South Indian hybrid and Brazilian Sativa. Her introduction to the masses in 1994 marked the end of an era in Dutch breeding circles and the beginning of a dynasty. Now known as Black Widow, the original White Widow would forever change the face of Dutch breeding and would go on too cement itself firmly as being among the most important strains of cannabis developed in the 20th century.
White Widow was originally bred by Shantibaba, the original founder, owner and head breeder of The Green House Seed Company (GHSC). The variety known as White Widow immediately catapulted itself into rock star status upon introduction to the public in 1994. Within a year of its initial release, White Widow took first place at the High Times Cannabis Cup in 1995 and a wave of copy cat White Widow varieties hit the market soon after. In 1996, both Nirvana and Dutch Passion seed companies purchased a single pack of White Widow seeds respectively from Shantibaba himself at the GHSC and within a year released their own versions of Widow. It wasn’t long before one would be hard pressed to find varieties of cannabis seed available from Holland that weren’t hybrids of the original White Widow released in 1994, literally breathing life into the Dutch cannabis breeding scene that had lagged in the time prior to White Widows release. For many years in Holland varieties such as Northern Lights, Skunk, Afghani and Haze were staples of the Dutch breeding community and with the introduction of White Widow came a renewed vigor in breeding top of the line, commercial and medicinal quality strains of cannabis. With success my friends, breeds greed and contempt for ones fellow man. A wave of White Widow varieties were available to the public by the late 1990’s, all of which were either hybrids a selected White Widow variety from a commercially available pack of F1 White Widow seeds from the GHSC, backcrosses from the original Widow or in some cases out right fraudulent lines to begin with. Having no true relation to the original Widow through hybridization or backcrossing. Imposters! To add to the growing complicated Widow landscape of the time, unscrupulous characters such as Ingemar, a former employee of the GHSC and self described breeder emerged claiming to be the true breeder of White Widow, offering their own version of the now legendary strain of cannabis. As if the whirlwind of disinformation wasn’t enough, along with Ingemar, yet another man who calls himself “Ecotronics” has laid claim to being the true breeder of White Widow and has been insistent everybody else is making money off of his line. While nothing is ever as black and white as it would seem from the outside looking in, it’s this kind of success and ultimately, confusion, that leads to the eventual name change of the original White Widow to the now proverbial Black Widow.
For those of you who may be in possession of genetics related to the Ingemar White Widow, but whom may be finding this article disappointing, I have you covered in that department as well. At one point in time, the man known as Ingemar worked for the GHSC, but if you were to believe Ingemar’s own account of the pedigree of his White Widow lines, one is left with the impression we are talking about distinctly different lines of White Widow from that of the Mr. Nice Seeds White Widow aka Black Widow. According to Ingemar, who now proudly assumes the title of “The Father of White Widow”, the pedigree of his line of White Widow is a secret, but that it was ultimately created from two seeds found in hand rolled hash which were subsequently selectively inbred for at least six years. Ingemar claims to have had access at the time to acres of land that he used to select the best plants from literally thousands of specimens. Again, the exact criteria Ingemar used to select his plants are kept a secret but he has been quoted as stating feed back from numerous medical users over the years played a role in the selection process of his particular White Widow line. According to Ingemar, the GHSC now uses his White Widow lines with express permission given solely to Arjan to use the name White Widow. In an ironic twist of fate, the GHSC now takes complete credit for the breeding and success of White Widow, without mention of either Ingemar or the true breeder of White Widow, Shantibaba, who of course is the only person in existence today with access to the original mother and father lines that created this now mythical variety of cannabis.
As was mentioned earlier, the pedigree of the Mr. Nice seeds Black Widow is the result of a union between a south Indian hybrid indica and a Brazilian sativa. The south Indian hybrid was found at Kovalum Beach, but it was ultimately cultivated in the surrounding mountainous terrain of Kerala. Shantibaba has stated in the past that the special qualities of the south Indian hybrid were enough for him to schedule a “safari” into the mountains of Kerala to find it on his Enfield bike. Within a few days, Shantibaba found himself “sitting in a café drinking a chai and smoking a joint”, when a middle aged, glassy eyed fellow approached him and helped finish off his smoke. After getting severely stoned and drinking the last of their tea, Shantibaba accompanied the man back to his farm only to discover this was the grower of the strain that had lead him into the mountains to begin with. After several days of testing numerous samples of marijuana, all of which had been cultivated, selected and “bred” for years based on resin production, selection was ultimately made on what would later become known as one half of the legendary pedigree of Black Widow. The man who helped Shantibaba finish his joint and ultimately supplied the seed that would later become known as the South Indian hybrid, told him that the seed had always been in his village, but that variation existed among the line depending on which village you visited to gather your wares. The plants are said to finish rather fast, but aesthetic wise have a sativa-esk appearance to them. Along with the Black Widow, several hybrids of this deadly lady have went on to garner much acclaim in their own right, most notably the White Rhino (now known as Medicine Man) and Great White Shark (also known as Peacemaker and Shark Shock), both of which have won a multitude of awards and cups in their own right, with the Medicine Mans pedigree consisting of Black Widow x Afghani and the Shark Shocks pedigree being Black Widow x Skunk#1. These are the original, “true blue” champion lines that garnered the reputations which precede themselves. Both lines find their ultimate pedigree traced back to the original White Widow bred by Shantibaba at the GHSC, now of Mr. Nice seeds (MNS), fronted by the legendary hash smuggler Howard Marks alongside the original “King of Cannabis”, Neville Schoenmaker.
It should be noted there are several Widow Hybrids available to the public from MNS, but all varieties containing the name Widow in the description come from either a select male or female cultivar, both from the same generation whom have underwent extensive testing. Hybrids such as Medicine Man, La Nina, G13xSkunk and Shark Shock are all varieties offered by MNS that encompass the Black Widow father as the main building block for their pedigrees. The exact formula of this male is somewhat of a mystery for all but the select few, however extensive breeding was done on the original White Widow (Black Widow) line and the male contains both the South Indian hybrid sativa/indica and the Brazilian Sativa. In very general terms, within a pack of seed of Black Widow one should expect the females to yield somewhere in the neighborhood of 350-400 grams per square meter. Of course it is phenotype dependant, but an experienced grower could probably do better with some time spent working with the line. Outdoors, the plants can be expected to finish by mid-October. Between the major three, Black Widow, Medicine Man and Shark Shock, the Medicine Man is touted as the fastest variety, coming in between mid September and October with the Shark Shock expected right around the beginning of October, give or a take a few days of course. Of all the hybrids however, Shantibaba describes the Shark Shock as the most successful breed of the ‘90s. One can not go wrong with any of the Widow selections; however the Black Widow is obviously perfect for the amateur breeder. If one was to find themselves in Amsterdam with some time to spare to try each line for them selves, according to Shantibaba the Katsu coffee shop on the Sarphatti Park, along with a gentleman known as Mr. Haze (supplier of official MNS gear to many Dutch coffee shops) and quite a few others stock the MNS Black Widow.
When it’s all said and done, at the end of the day, those at Mr. Nice Seeds hold the original parental lines that produced the White strains that won all of the acclaim in the mid to late 1990’s. The awards and cups are documented, and exist as irrefutable proof of the true origins of the White Widow line. These varieties of White lines are not nearly uncommon, but are of a quality rarely seen on a consistent basis that have managed to capture the hearts and minds of millions of cannabis enthusiasts the world over. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to be led in the wrong direction when it comes to the quest for the true White Widow. Now the picture should be painted much clearer for you. Though, the search has only just begun. Selection is the key to success with any variety, but with some diligence you too can have a mother plant that produces herb almost too toxic to indulge in on a consistent basis. Heed my warning; this is one of the most powerful varieties of cannabis known to mankind. Handle with care, because these lines are known to leave even the most experienced of smokers pleading for mercy. Good luck out there, friends. However, if you go to Mr. Nice seeds to get your Widow you’re not going to need it.
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