The history of Panama Red is simply amazing. It is one of the oldest landraces of the whole American continent, and some say it is extinct. In reality, it has just become very rare, and very difficult to obtain. Panama Red was a true legend in the 1960s and 1970s, when entire generations of hippies considered it the best weed money could buy, the top of the line. It was one of the most psychedelic experiences cannabis could offer, and its name appears to this day in songs and movies. But nobody seems to be growing it today, and no seed bank offers it in its selection. There are many reasons to this: the genetics can only be found in a very specific, remote island. And the plant is very sativa, with non-commercial traits unacceptable to most of today's growers.

Panama is located in the middle of Central America, in between Colombia and Costa Rica, and is a thin strip of land between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. The country has a tropical climate, with very mild temperatures all year round, mostly between 24 and 30 degrees. Humidity is high, with extreme peaks during the rainy season, from March to December. The rain is much heavier on the caribbean side than on the pacific side of the country, but in this part of central America there are no hurricanes. Only on the mountains on the west side of the country temperatures are lower, and can sometimes get close to freezing at night. Hundreds of islands, small and large, make both sides of the coast a tourist paradise. Nature is pristine, both above and under water, and development is still catching up with the abundance of amazing spots. Almost half of the country is still covered in lush tropical forest, and there are huge swamps.

The Panama channel, connecting the two oceans, was built in 1914 on a tiny piece of land sold to the USA, and only in 2000 the Panama government took back control over the channel. Today, it brings significant incomes to the country in the form of taxes and international prestige, and it has allowed Panama to become an international "tax-heaven", a place where banks have high secrecy and where shipowners from all over the world want to register commercial boats. Panama's commercial fleet, as a result, grew to be one of the largest in the world. The history of the country is pretty bloody, starting with Spanish domination (that lasted 300 years), then the annexion to Colombia in 1821, and finally the independence in 1903. But even after becoming a nation, Panama was always troubled by racial tension between whites and natives, as well as by heavy criminality linked to cocaine trade and dictatorships (the worse being the one of Manuel Noriega, culminated with the US invasion in 1988). Today Panama is more peaceful, but still faces huge social, economical and logistical challenges.

Tourists are increasing every year, and today they represent a source of development for several areas. The majority of the people live under the line of poverty, making mont's end with survival farming, and they have few animals. The majority of the wealth is in the hands of less than 3% of the population, mostly living in the capital city or abroad (USA, Caribbean, Colombia, Spain).

Until the 1970s Panama produced large quantities of high-grade cannabis, mostly to be exported to the United States and Europe. The Panama Red was grown mostly along the pacific coast, slightly less rainy and more fertile. Then the cocaine trade changed the balances of money and power, and the locals dedicated themselves to the more lucrative business option. Cannabis cultivation continued on small scale, for local consumption, but basically most of the forest areas that were previously used to grow fields were converted in landing strips or jungle labs.

The only area where the cannabis production continued basically unchanged was on a group of islands off the south coast, the Pearl islands (Islas de las Perlas). These islands have the perfect climate to grow sativas: mild temperatures, constant breeze, acceptable humidity, fertile soil, thick forest to hide and protect on the ground as well as from the air. Since a long, long time ago people grow on these islands, and seeds have been passed on from generation to generation, since hundreds of years ago. and they are still busy. This is the place where it is still possible, even if not easy, to find the true landrace.

The Panama Red grows tall, skinny, with long internodes and thick stems, with a woody fiber. They branch almost horizontally, parallel to the ground, and stretch quite a bit. The growers usually choose locations under tall trees, so the plants stretch even more to look for the sunshine. The proximity to the equator makes the variation in the length of the day almost unnoticeable. In summer days are 13 hours long, in winter 11. This means plants grow to sexual maturity, then start flowering. The stretch in vertical growth happens almost entirely during flowering, and does not want to stop. Growers bend the tallest plants down and tie them to the ground with ropes, or use stones to hold down the lowest branches against the ground. Sometimes the branches break, and roots form from the branch into the soil, propagating the plant horizontally.

The buds are long, thin, almost fluffy, but covered in long thin hairs that turn very red very soon. The leaves and stems also turn reddish and brownish towards the middle of the flowering, and maintain the red until harvest time. The flowering time is usually 3 months (crops grown November to March, the driest months, produce the best results. But growers plant also in January and in May if they want to increase production). The small patches of plants are hidden deep into the tropical forest, and very hard to access. Cannabis consumption is quite open and accepted, but cultivation carries heavy sentences. Tourists are now becoming the main market for the cannabis grown in Panama, but they also represent a danger to the survival of the original landrace, as they often bring seeds from other cultivars and exchange them with locals. It already happened on the mainland, and it is bound to happen on the islands as well.

Smoking the original Panama Red is a true visual experience before any other sense is stimulated. The cured buds are usually seedless, and have a dark green color that softly melts into dark red at every tip of the calyx. The hairs are bright red, giving a surreal glow to the long thin buds. Braking it reveals a deep scent of berries, followed by an intense woody/spicy background. The flavor after combustion is slightly more bitter than expected from the smell, but translate fairly well. The high doesn't hit. It creeps, it gently grabs your attention and then explodes in a cloud of introspective high, long lasting, very trippy. It is one of the most psychedelic sativa highs and one of the cleanest. After the blast, the aftermath is almost non-existing. The Panama Red is great smoke for creative moments, for inspiration, for intimacy and for thinking. It is truly legendary, and it will survive jealously kept by a selected group of breeders.

Franco – Green House Seed Co.

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