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What Is Cannabis Ruderalis?

You may already know the differences between indica and sativa varieties of cannabis, but have you heard of cannabis ruderalis? According to Jorge Cervantes, grow guru and author of The Cannabis Encyclopedia, “Botanists disagree as to whether c. ruderalis qualifies as a separate species or subspecies.” So, to answer some of the questions we receive about cannabis ruderalis and autoflowering genetics, Leafly has put together a quick background on this lesser-known classification of cannabis strains.

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.

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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.

Cannabis Ruderalis

Discussions of marijuana strains are often dominated by debates about sativa versus indica, but most everyday consumers aren’t aware that there is a lesser known type of cannabis that carries specific characteristics that are particularly attractive to growers. That sub-species of marijuana is cannabis ruderalis.

In addition to sativa and indica, there is a lesser-known third type of cannabis called ruderalis.

What Is Ruderalis?

Cannabis ruderalis is a little-known kind of marijuana that is known for its ability to grow in conditions that would kill most cannabis plants. Ruderalis cannabis originates from Asia and Central/Eastern Europe – areas with climates too harsh for other cannabis species to survive.

Ruderalis seeds are incredibly hardy and can continue living even after they’ve been cracked open by being stepped on. They detach from the plant easily and can survive, dormant, in the frozen ground until conditions are favorable for the plant to grow.

The name ruderalis comes from the words ruderal or rudera, Latin terms that mean “rubble” in English. Ruderal plants are wild plant species that can flourish in land that’s been disturbed by human activity (such as construction) or natural disasters. It’s often found growing near roadsides or on farmland that’s been plowed and left unsown.

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Many years ago, ruderalis grew wild, but today, breeders have harnessed the power of ruderalis to make hardy and spectacular hybrids.

The ruderalis plant thrives in areas with climates too harsh for other cannabis species to survive.

Characteristics of the Ruderalis Plant

Ruderalis isn’t just more durable and hardy than sativa or indica plants; it also looks and behaves differently when grown. Here are the characteristics that set the ruderalis plant apart from all the rest.

Visual

Growers will find that the ruderalis plant is the smallest of all cannabis types, reaching a height of only 1 to 2.5 feet. The stocky little plants have thick stems and very wide leaves.

A ruderalis bud is generally smaller than those generated by other types of cannabis plants. Although they’re small, they’re sturdy and chunky.

Autoflowering

The autoflowering characteristics of the cannabis ruderalis plant is truly what sets it apart from sativa and indica species. Unlike the others (which must have their lighting manipulated in order to kick off the flowering process), ruderalis cannabis plants will automatically begin to flower between 21 and 30 days after being planted.

Harvest

A month or so after it begins flowering, cannabis ruderalis will be ready for harvest. Specifically, cannabis ruderalis is typically ready for harvest 70 to 110 days after the seeds are planted.

Ruderalis Effects

Pure ruderalis cannabis isn’t a species that will typically be found in a dispensary, so the only people who get to experience consuming it are those who grow it themselves. Ruderalis is known for the following effects:

No significant high

The extremely low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in cannabis ruderalis means it doesn’t cause psychotropic effects. The fact that the species causes so little in terms of a high is part of the reason it’s rarely grown as a pure species and has largely been overlooked by recreational consumers.

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Calming and relaxing

Its high CBD (cannabidiol) content makes it an excellent kind of cannabis for medicinal purposes. It’s especially good for medical marijuana patients who would like the benefits of CBD without the high of THC. Marijuana that is high in CBD is typically recommended for people with anxiety or insomnia due to its calming effects.

Ruderalis cannabis is of particular interest to medical marijuana patients due to its low THC and high CBD content. (Credit: Le Loup Gris)

Breeding Cannabis Ruderalis Hybrids

Because there is no “ruderalis high” due to its low THC levels, ruderalis isn’t popular among recreational consumers – but it is of extreme interest to marijuana breeders. Most growers use ruderalis not as a standalone crop, but as an opportunity to create hybrids that contain ruderalis traits. Specifically, breeders value ruderalis because it’s an autoflowering sub-species that automatically begins to flower between 21 and 30 days, regardless of whether the grower manipulates the plant’s lighting.

The characteristics of ruderalis allow growers to create sativa/indica/ruderalis hybrids that contain potent levels of THC and will flower automatically.

The autoflowering characteristics of cannabis ruderalis make it of particular interest to marijuana growers.

Little-Known Species with Huge Power

Although ruderalis cannabis bud may not be among the offerings at marijuana dispensaries, most consumers don’t realize the impact that this little-known cannabis species has on their overall selection and experience. Using the power of cannabis ruderalis, growers are able to alter the genetics of their other strains – giving them autoflowering characteristics, boosting their CBD levels, and ensuring a hardier, more robust cannabis crop.