Cannabis flower can vary widely when it comes to effect and appearance. Decades ago, there were nearly the number of purple strains as there are now. While purple coloration is not necessarily an indication of high quality, there is definitely some visual appeal with these strains, and some can be downright beautiful.
Purple color in cannabis can be caused by both environmental and genetic factors. Genetically purple strains are a relatively recent development in marijuana breeding and growing. Now you can buy strains and grow them with a relatively high level of certainty that the purple color will eventually reveal itself in varying amounts on most of the plants. This is a welcome development, and many people derive great pleasure from growing purple flowers. There is little doubt that the dramatic bluish-purple hues have strong jar appeal. These strains often have names that relate to this coloration, so purple has become a marketing tool for many seed banks, growers, and dispensaries.
Several years ago, the purple coloration found on plants more often than not was due to environmental factors, specifically the lower temperatures that occur in the fall, when outdoor grows were harvested. Some plants were exposed to prolonged periods of colder temperatures as the days grew shorter and the nights grew longer.
Cold temperatures can result in cannabis plants that are every bit as purple as those that turn purple due to their genetics. The purple can appear in every shade, from lilac to royal purple to shades that are so dark they almost appear black. Depending on the strain, purple coloration from environmental factors can turn entire plants purple or merely limited areas on flowers or subtle highlights.
Even before the days of cannabis breeding specifically for purple coloration, most cannabis consumers were familiar with this color, which was somewhat of a novelty back then. While it was desirable, it wasn’t nearly as common as it is today.
The strains that most often showed purple colors were indica strains, and that’s still the case today. With a great many grows occurring indoors these days, environmental factors are not as much of a factor with purple cannabis. Breeders have been able to identify and separate plants with this color difference and breed selectively so that, today, purple is a fixed trait and appears in many strains.
One of the early West Coast breeders who was responsible for creating a strain known for its pleasing bluish-purple colors was DJ Short and his legendary Blueberry strain. To this day, “DJ Short Blueberry” is a classic, and finding an authentic cut or sample of it is easier said than done. With so many newer, modern strains having berry flavors, the term “blueberry” has been used for strains besides Short’s original. Those who have grown the original Blueberry—which has Afghani and Thai as its foundation—have seen purple and blue coloration emerge on the plants as they mature. Combined with the sweet and rich blueberry flavor, the color is a perfect match that’s quite remarkable. Modern breeders owe some of the cannabis pioneers like DJ Short of Oregon a debt of gratitude for setting a high standard for potency and unique visual traits that are due to their genetics rather than environmental factors.
Why Are They Purple?
Purple cannabis strains owe their special color to the presence of anthocyanins, a class of compounds with antioxidant effects. Anthocyanins affect pigmentation, and are found naturally in a number of plants and foods. They give blue, red, and purple plants their pleasing colors. Some of the foods that have anthocyanins include raspberries, black currants, red cabbage, blackberries, red radishes, blueberries—and cannabis! Plants that have anthocyanins molecules often change their colors depending upon the pH in their environments, as well as other factors.
Modern Purple Strains
Since the days when original blueberry wowed cannabis connoisseurs who were quick to recognize its unique and potent qualities, a great many purple strains have hit the market. These strains have become fixtures in the modern market and breed true with regard to their color. To learn more about these strains, let’s examine a selection of high-quality flowers known for their beautiful color.
- Purple Urkle. With sketchy details regarding its genetic background, Purple Urkle is a strain thought to stem from a prime pheno of Mendocino Purps. Purple Urkle has qualities that come from another mystery strain or two. The flavor is unique and outstanding, tasting like fruity grapes with slight floral notes. The terpene experience will no doubt please anyone who favors grapey indicas. This strain has high potential for medical use for a variety of ailments, including migraine headaches and insomnia.
- Grape Ape. For lovers of grape-flavored strains, Grape Ape is a must-try flower. This indica-dominant strain combines Mendocino Purps with Skunk and Afghani. The result is a plant with short stature and a relaxing effect, both hallmarks of a fine indica strain. Grape Ape produces tight, compact buds and leaves that usually show visually pleasing purple highlights, but not quite to the extent many other purple varieties do. With outstanding flavor, effect, and jar appeal, Grape Ape is a strain that scores high in most of the categories that define an elite cannabis strain.
- Mendocino Purps. Hailing from Mendocino County in Northern California, part of the three counties that form the Emerald Triangle, this strain has its roots in the holy land of modern cannabis cultivation. Unfortunately, the true Mendocino Purps is a clone-only strain, but it’s now available in seed form after being crossed to another strain that complemented its genetics and retained most of its outstanding qualities. Commonly known as merely “The Purps,” this strain gains its purple color late into flower. Its flavors are a combination of fruity and savory, with sweet, earthy coffee notes.
- Purple Haze. As a strain with a heavy amount of Haze, this sativa strain stands out from all of the indica and indica-dominant strains on this list—which makes it notable for that reason alone. Along with Flo, which also appears here, Purple Haze is firmly in the sativa camp when it comes to effects and flavor.
- Querkle. A cross between Purple Urkel and Space Queen, Querkle leans heavily to the indica side with an 80/20 indica-dominant ratio. Querkle has pleasing lavender coloration and hard-hitting potency. As an indica, Querkle is a strain well-suited to evening use, although its sativa genetics make themselves felt with a happy, focused effect that allows for a pleasant daytime experience as well. The purple coloration on prime Querkle flowers will get any cannabis enthusiast’s attention and approval.
- Blackwater. A notable indica-dominant strain for its dark-purple coloration and outstanding flavor, Blackwater is a cross of Mendocino Purps and San Fernando Valley OG Kush—two standouts known for their excellent terpene experiences. With flavors of berries, pine, and lemon, its effect is strong and sedative, making it good for nighttime use and a good medical strain for a variety of conditions like anxiety, stress, and appetite loss. Although it’s a quick finisher indoors, the yields are fairly modest, a reflection of the OG Kush genetics in it background.
- Granddaddy Purple. An industry favorite, Granddaddy “Purps” has been a cornerstone strain used to create several other noteworthy strains, many of them with a propensity for purple coloration. Created in the early 2000s by noted cannabis breeder Ken Estes, Granddaddy Purple is a cross between Purple Urkel and Big Bud. With pleasing sweet grape flavors that complement its rich purple color, this strain is widely available and should be easy to find with a little looking. The effects are indica all the way, with dreamy relaxation that makes it a great medical strain.
- Purple Kush. This pure indica strain is yet another classic from the West Coast.
- Flo. Noteworthy for being a strain with both purple coloration and a hefty amount of sativa in its genetic background, Flo originated back in the ’90s, and is a result of two classic strains in their own right: Purple Thai and Afghani. The Afghani indica imparts a subtle, relaxing quality that complements the otherwise alert and upbeat high from the Purple Thai. Flo is an award-winning strain with pungent and sweet terpenes.
- Purple Diesel. A hybrid with nicely balanced effects, Purple Diesel is sure to please those with a fondness for diesel strains, which makes it quite different from other strains on this list.