Freakshow Cannabis Strain: The Legend of Shapeshifter

With fern-like leaves, cannabis strains like Freakshow can help us better understand mutations in cannabis and whether we should encourage them or not.

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Debuting in 2019, Freakshow is a cannabis strain that is truly a botanical anomaly with fern-like leaves that barely resemble your classic marijuana leaf. Thanks to its unique appearance, the Freakshow strain can help lead the way to us better understanding mutations in cannabis plants, and what they can positively and negatively do for them. 

The Enigmatic Origins of Freakshow

Created by a breeder known as Shapeshider (real name Jordan) in 2017 with the help of Humboldt Seed Company, Freakshow is a mutant phenotype, originating from a mix of old-school sativa strains with some hybrids mixed in. But don’t tell Jordan that, who claims Freakshow is “not indica, not sativa — but cannabis monstra”, even going as far as to patent the term in the U.S. I’m not sure how I feel about that as phenotype and species are not interchangeable words. It’s kinda like trying to patent ‘hybrid’, which Freakshow is. 

Monstra likely stands for ‘deformed’, and a cultivar presenting a phenotype that causes it to look deformed doesn’t change its species or strain for that matter — and the phenotype won’t always present itself, i.e., you can have a Freakshow plant that shows no mutations. Do those retain their monstra title? Anyway, monstra could also be a reference to plants that fall under the genus Monstera due to their resemblance. Cannabis monstra is basically a marketing term, but indica and sativa are often used solely as marketing terms too with little regard to their true botanical taxonomy. So have at that what you will. 

The Visual Spectacle of Freakshow Leaves

The highlight of Freakshow is definitely its palmatisect leaves. While they are long and skinny, similar to the leaves we associate with sativas, the fingers are heavily serrated and plentiful giving them a fern-like appearance. Even though I know better, the first time I saw the strain, I could have sworn that someone somehow bred a cannabis plant and tree fern together. 

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Freakshow is truly visually striking and took many in the cannabis community by surprise and disbelief due to its unique mutations. Mutations aren’t uncommon in cannabis, but usually, they result in simple mutations like two-tone leaves or leaves with a single extra finger. 

Breeding the Unconventional: The Journey to Freakshow

Jordan stumbled upon Freakshow when breeding Big Bud and Skunk #1, with a male plant stemming from Big Sur Holy Bud and Banana Kush to stabilize a particular terpene profile — there may be some pineapple express in there. Shapeshifter’s dedication to creating and continuing Freakshow’s legacy comes from his disdain for waste. It’s no secret consumers tend to go off appearance when it comes to picking fruits and veggies, and it’s no different with cannabis. 

Immediately falling in love with Freakshow’s appearance, Jordan hoped that the rarity and aesthetic nature of the plant could change people’s mindset that bag appeal rules over all else. Before, Freakshow, Jordan would tell you the end of this dominance in the cannabis cultivation world was coming to an end as legalization had created a market where people just wanted the same, boring-looking weed, again and again. 


Beyond the Leaves: The Freakshow Experience

Aroma: Freakshow often exhibits a complex blend of earthy, woody, and herbal notes with hints of sweetness. 

Flavor: The flavor of Freakshow can mirror its aroma, offering a combination of earthy, herbal, and woody notes with subtle sweetness. Depending on the specific terpene profile, users may also detect hints of citrus, pine, or spice during consumption.

Potency: The THC content of Freakshow can vary depending on the specific phenotype and cultivation practices. It’s typically considered a moderately potent strain, with THC levels ranging from around 15% to 20%. This gives Freakshow a high that while long-lasting, won’t be hard-hitting unless you are new to consuming intoxicating cannabis items. 

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Effects: Freakshow is often described as having a balanced combination of effects. It can induce a relaxed and euphoric mood, making it suitable for both recreational and medicinal use. Users may experience a gentle uplift in mood accompanied by a calming sensation throughout the body. Some users also report enhanced creativity and focus while using this strain.

Terpene Profile: Terpenes found in the greatest amounts in this strain may include myrcene, pinene, limonene, caryophyllene, and terpinolene

Reception: Thanks to its unique appearance, and balanced aroma and potency, Freakshow is adored by both enthusiasts and casual users. Cultivators will find it most fun, since after it’s trimmed, the nugs look like any other.   

The Legacy of Freakshow and Future of Cannabis Breeding

While terms like indica and sativa have their place, they are more often than not incorrectly used due to all the indiscriminate breeding practices that occurred in secret to avoid the law. And while that makes my job very hard when clearing up all the confusion, I look forward to exploring cannabis’ genetic diversity through control breeding practices. This is so much easier to achieve today, especially when we can work with scientists in a lab where we can better understand what’s all happening. And Jordan appears to be doing just that, meaning Freakshow can help lead the way to a greener future. 

Nicholas McKenzie - Cannabis Research Specialist

Nicholas McKenzie - Cannabis Research Specialist

Nicholas has spent the last ten years teaching gardeners, businesses, and enthusiasts how to succeed in the exciting and ever-changing world of cannabis. Whether he’s in the field getting his hands dirty or in the lab studying cannabinoids and their uses, Nicholas is passionate about bringing well-researched, factual, and concise information to an industry that very much needs it.

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