If you know anything about cannabis, you have probably heard of sativa and indica strains. But did you know that there is also a third variety of the plant? Cannabis ruderalis is a lesser-known cousin of these more popular strains. It is not something you are likely to find in your local dispensary.
However, if you are a fan of hybrids or love to grow marijuana, you may have encountered cannabis ruderalis without even knowing it. It is an unfamiliar plant with extremely low THC content. However, it possesses some unique benefits which have made it popular with breeders across the globe.
What Is Cannabis Ruderalis?
There is disagreement within the scientific world regarding whether cannabis sativa, indica, and ruderalis are separate species or three subspecies of the same plant. Either way, cannabis ruderalis is distinct from its more recognizable relatives for several reasons.
Cannabis ruderalis is a weed in every sense of the word.
The name ruderalis comes from the Latin word rudus, meaning ‘rubble.’ Plants with ‘ruderalis’ in their names tend to grow in the wild regardless of human activity or other disturbances to their habitats. This means that cannabis ruderalis is a weed in every sense of the word. It is easy to imagine this plant growing untamed on rocky wastelands or even alongside a busy highway.
Cannabis ruderalis was first classified by a botanist named Janischevsky in 1924. It was discovered far later than its sativa and indica counterparts. The precise origin of the plant is unclear. However, it possibly evolved from cultivated hemp plants, which ‘escaped’ and spread across the land over time.
It is thought to be native to the vast Siberian region of Russia. However, ruderalis is probably descended from the landrace strains of Central Asia and you can also find it in Asia and Europe. There are also reports of the plant growing in parts of North America.
The Origin of Cannabis Ruderalis
The term ruderalis stems from the root word ruderal. In the plant world, a ruderal species is one that grows in spite of its environment being inhabited by humans or being otherwise affected by naturally occurring disturbances to the area. Many believe ruderalis to be a descendant of indica genetics that adjusted to the harsh climates and the shorter growing seasons of the northern regions where it originates. Cannabis ruderalis is native to areas in Asia, Central/Eastern Europe, and specifically Russia, where botanists used the term “ruderalis” to classify the breeds of hemp plant that had escaped from human and cultivation, adapting to the extreme environments found in these climates.
Originally, cannabis ruderalis was considered a wild breed of cannabis. However, in recent years it has been brought indoors to influence new hybrid varieties.
Properties of Cannabis Ruderalis
Cannabis ruderalis is a short and stalky plant, especially when compared to its sativa and indica counterparts. It typically sits between 1 and 2.5 feet tall at harvest, with a rugged and shaggy growth pattern that produces wide leaflets that express themselves in a light green hue. The buds from the ruderalis plant tend to be small but still relatively chunky, and are supported by the sturdy, thick stems.
What really sets ruderalis apart is its flowering cycle that is induced according to its maturity instead of being activated by the photoperiod like indica and sativa varieties. Modern ruderalis hybrids usually begin to flower between 21 and 30 days after the seeds have been planted, regardless of the light cycle. This is why most ruderalis hybrids are attributed as “autoflowering” strains.
Effects of Cannabis Ruderalis
The effects of cannabis ruderalis alone are minimized by its naturally low concentrations of THC. However, the stability and short lifecycle make ruderalis versatile and attractive to breeders who want to take advantage of its autoflowering trait. Ruderalis genes offer the ability for breeders to create an autoflowering hybrid with the advanced potency and flavor profile from its genetic partner.
The Self-Raising Plant
Cannabis ruderalis is a relatively short plant with a thick, fibrous stem and broad, pale green leaves. Its buds are small but fairly dense in structure.
It has a low THC content compared with sativa and indica strains. However, it is rich in CBD, meaning that it could have certain medicinal properties. Its genetics potentially lie somewhere between industrial hemp and the marijuana used for medicinal or recreational purposes.
The thing that makes cannabis ruderalis special, though, is its ability to flower automatically without changes to its light/dark cycle. Experienced marijuana growers will know that sativa and indica strains need approximately 12 hours of darkness a day to begin flowering. Ruderalis, on the other hand, flowers as soon as the plant becomes mature, regardless of how much daylight it receives.
This unusual feature has made cannabis ruderalis a popular plant among marijuana breeders around the world. Ruderalis’ autoflowering potential has allowed breeders to develop hybrids with a far shorter flowering time than average. As a result, they benefit from more harvests every year.
What Is the Difference Between Ruderalis, Sativa, and Indica Strains?
Ruderalis, sativa, and indica cannabis strains are all native to different regions. As a result, they have developed very different growing habits over time.
Since cannabis ruderalis originates from a region with long, harsh winters, it evolved as a small and fast-growing plant. Its autoflowering abilities mean that it can finish flowering during the summer. This is despite the long daylight hours experienced in northern regions throughout the season.
Similarly, indica strains tend to have a relatively short flowering time since they originated from the Himalayas’ foothills. They would, therefore, need to reach maturity quickly before the colder weather arrived. Like ruderalis plants, indicas tend to be short and stocky with broad leaves. However, cannabis ruderalis produces very little THC. In contrast, indica strains are known for their dense buds, laden with cannabinoid-rich resin.
Sativa strains are native to warm, tropical regions. Therefore, unlike their cousins, they can afford to spend a far longer time flowering. Because of this, sativa plants tend to grow much taller than either ruderalis or indicas. Indeed, they may reach a staggering 20 feet in height. They also have long, slender leaves and fluffy buds. These plants are a wonder to behold when grown outdoors with ample space.