What is Cannabis Ruderalis – And How is it Different?

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 and not something that you are likely to find in your local dispensary.

However, if you are a fan of hybrids or love to grow your own marijuana, you may have encountered cannabis ruderalis without even knowing it. This is because despite this unfamiliar plant having an extremely low THC content, it does possess some unique benefits which have made it popular with breeders across the globe.

Read on to learn more about cannabis ruderalis and why it is creating a new kind of buzz in the marijuana industry.

What is Cannabis Ruderalis? An Overview

There is disagreement within the scientific world as to 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 a number of reasons.

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, much later than its sativa and indica counterparts. Although the precise origin of the plant is unclear, it is possible that it evolved from cultivated hemp plants which ‘escaped’ and spread across the land over time. Probably descended from the landrace strains of Central Asia, cannabis ruderalis is thought to be native to the vast Siberian region of Russia. However, it can also be found in Asia and Europe, and there have even been reports of the plant growing in parts of North America.

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. Although this plant has a low THC content compared with sativa and indica strains, it is rich in CBD, meaning that it could have certain medicinal properties. Its genetics are thought to lie somewhere between industrial hemp and the marijuana used for medicinal or recreational purposes.

The thing that makes cannabis ruderalis really 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 more than 11 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. Its autoflowering potential has allowed them to develop hybrids with a far shorter flowering time than average, and that means 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 and have therefore developed very different growing habits over time.

Since cannabis ruderalis originates from an area with long, harsh winters, it evolved as a small and fast-growing plant. Its autoflowering abilities mean that it would have been able to finish flowering during the summer, in spite of 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 foothills of the Himalayas. 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, while cannabis ruderalis produces very little in the way of THC, indica strains are known for their dense buds, laden with cannabinoid-rich resin.

Sativa strains are native to warm, tropical regions and therefore, unlike their cousins, they could afford to spend a far longer time flowering. Because of this, sativa plants tend to grow much taller than either ruderalis or indicas and may reach a staggering 20 feet in height. They also have long, slender leaves and fluffy buds, making these plants a wonder to behold when grown outdoors with ample space.

There is a commonly held belief that sativa and indica strains have different THC/CBD contents and therefore different effects. Sativas are thought to produce a more cerebral, uplifting high, whereas indicas are believed to be more sedating and provide a powerful ‘body high.’

Although most commercial strains are now bred to have an exceedingly high THC content regardless of their heritage, indicas do tend to contain slightly more CBD. There are also several strains explicitly bred for a high CBD content, and these tend to be indica varieties.

As we have already mentioned, cannabis ruderalis is known to be low in THC but high in CBD. Therefore, it is unlikely to have any intoxicating effects, but may be useful medicinally.

To summarize the most significant differences between ruderalis, sativa, and indica marijuana strains, check out our handy comparison chart below:

CannabisCannabis ruderalisCannabis indicaCannabis sativa
OriginsCentral RussiaCentral Asia, e.g. Northern India, AfghanistanTropical regions, e.g. Mexico, Thailand, Africa
Height1–2.5 ft2–4 ft5–20 ft
ShapeShort and compact with broad leaves and small budsShort and stocky with broad leaves and large, dense budsTall and slender with narrow leaves and less dense, fluffy buds
Flowering time5–7 weeks8–12 weeks10–16 weeks
THC/CBD contentLow THC, High CBDUsually high THC, CBD content may be higher than sativaUsually high THC, low CBD
EffectsUnlikely to be intoxicating, may have some medicinal effectsRelaxing and sedating, may relieve pain, reduce anxiety, and aid sleepCerebral and uplifting, may alleviate depression and mental disorders

Cannabis Ruderalis and Autoflowering Marijuana Strains

The main reason that cannabis ruderalis is used commercially is to create autoflowering hybrid strains. These plants are known for their short growing cycles and ability to flower independently of changes to their light/dark cycle.

Some examples of popular autoflowering cannabis strains include:

Amnesia Haze Automatic

This sativa-dominant strain has all the uplifting, energetic properties of its namesake, but with a greatly reduced flowering time. Whereas the original Amnesia Haze can take up to 12 weeks to flower, this variety can do so in as little as 80 days. Given enough space, this plant can reach heights of around 5ft and could yield between two and five ounces per plant.

Royal Dwarf

Royal Queen Seeds created this sativa-dominant autoflowering strain by crossing cannabis ruderalis with a Skunk strain. This bud provides a high which is relaxing but without being too overpowering. Despite its sativa genetics, Royal Dwarf is a compact plant which is ideal for growers with limited time and space. It can be harvested after just 8–9 weeks and yields up to 2 oz per plant.

Northern Lights Automatic

Northern Lights is an indica-dominant strain known for its relaxing, euphoric effects. The autoflowering variety can be ready to harvest in as little as 11 weeks. It has a generous yield of up to 7 oz per plant when grown outdoors, or 19 oz per square meter indoors.

White Widow Automatic

This is another classic strain which has been given the autoflowering makeover. White Widow is an indica-dominant strain known for its sedative properties and ability to relieve conditions such as pain and anxiety. White Widow Automatic can be grown from seed to harvest in just 75 days and may yield 6–8 oz per plant.

Easy Bud

The name of this indica-dominant strain says it all. Easy Bud is super simple to grow, with a fast flowering time of 8–9 weeks. This is the perfect strain for novice growers and can yield over 2oz per plant outdoors and 11 oz per square meter indoors. Its effects are strongly relaxing, euphoric, and it may even make you feel somewhat aroused.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis Ruderalis

Cannabis ruderalis may not have a high THC content or be particularly impressive to look at, but this unusual plant does have a lot to offer. With its autoflowering abilities and compact nature, it can be used to create hybrids which are fantastic for growers who are short on time or space.

With it being such an underrated plant, it is entirely possible that you have not heard of cannabis ruderalis before today. However, with more and more new marijuana strains being brought to life all the time, it is likely a plant that you will hear about much more in the future.