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You may have heard of cannabis indica and cannabis sativa but have you heard of cannabis ruderalis? Many people are only aware of an indica, sativa or a hybrid of the two because the spotlight has been on them for a long time. However, there’s a younger sibling in the cannabis family with the name ‘cannabis ruderalis’ which has been ignored for many years.

What could be the possible reason for the unpopularity of the cannabis ruderalis? While there are many plausible answers to the question, the key reason could be that this specie has low levels of psychoactive properties unlike the indica and sativa which makes it unappealing to the cannabis community. All the unpopularity is gradually becoming a thing of the past as cannabis ruderalis is gradually finding its way into the limelight because of the autoflowering genes it brings to the table.

cannabis ruderalic

What is cannabis ruderalis?

Cannabis ruderalis is a small, fast growing plant that belongs to the cannabis family. It’s the lesser known specie of the three varieties of cannabis namely: indica, sativa and ruderalis. Its distinguishing factor is its ability to grow in harsh climates as the other species cannot withstand such extreme conditions.

Apart from being small, the plant also has very thick and sturdy stems and leaves that are fairly dark green which makes the cannabis plant look like a shrub. Its branches are usually few while the plant can grow in heights up to 90cm (2 feet tall), making it the shortest cannabis specie and an ideal specie for hemp production.

The name ruderalis is gotten from the Latin word “rudera” which is a plural form of “rudus” and it is translated “rubble” in English Langauage. The name explains the prominent nature of the plant which is its ability to survie the roughest weather conditions of Russia and Europe. Unlike its cousins in the cannabis family, cannabis ruderalis can grow in extreme cold conditions with as little as 6 hours daily sunlight.

Researchers have also discovered that the plant is one of the first plants to be seen in areas where natural disasters (like avalanches or wildfire) occur because of its rare ability to grow with minimal nutrients and human attention. If you’ve been looking for a cannabis plant that you can grow indoors, ruderalis makes for a great choice because it can grow by itself with little to no human effort and its height offers an extra advantage.

Despite its amazing survival abilities, cannabis ruderalis has almost no psychoactive content known as tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) which is probably why it didn’t get much attention in times past. Nevertheless, the plant has very high levels cannabidiol (CBD).

Origin of cannabis ruderalis

While cannabis sativa is indigenous to eastern Asia and the indica to the Middle East, cannabis ruderalis originated from Russia, which is why it’s also called Russian ruderalis. The plant can also be found in Central and Eastern Europe and even the Northern Himalayas.

The ruderalis plant was discovered nearly 140 years after botanists had categorised the existing cannabis plants into sativa and indica species. It was first discovered by a Russian botanist, D.E. Janioschevsky, who was studying wild species of cannabis along the Volga River. The specie he came across had a bit of the genetics of the cannabis sativa and cannabis indica even though it had several differences. One of such differences was its growth characteristics.

Although some researchers believe that the ruderalis did not naturally evolve and that it escaped cultivation into the environment, the major distinguishing factors are still the evident today. However, studies suggest that the cannabis ruderalis descended from the indica varieties which, in turn, most likely descended from the Sativas.

The three species all have a common genetic ancestor but have adapted by developing traits that are beneficial to them in their different climates which is necessary for survival. Consequently, the indica, sativa and ruderalis have different appearances, cannabinoid concentrations and flowering times among a plethora of differences.

Examples of some popular ruderalis strains are: Northern Light Automatic, Royal Bluematic, Amnesia Haze Automatic, and Royal Haze Automatic.

Characteristics of cannabis ruderalis

Physical appearance

One of the foremost noticeable differences about the ruderalis plant is its height which is unlike that of its siblings in the cannabis family. While the sativa varieties can grow up to 12 feet (3 metre) and the indica plant can grow up to 4 feet (1 metre), the height of the ruderalis specie is only 2 feet (1/2 metre) which is why it is sometimes referred to as dwarf cannabis.  The plant grows with a thick and sturdy stem that gives off a few branches while its leaves are fairly dark green. It has a small amount of side branches and flower which makes its overall yield low.


While you may be unimpressed with the physical growth of the plant, one of its biggest interests to geneticists and growers is its autoflowering nature which can be considered as a game changer. Owing to the few hours of light it has adapted itself to receive; ruderalis has developed the ability to autoflower.

Generally, all flowering plants use the number of hours of daylight they receive to know the seasonal changes in climate which in turn influences when they reproduce. Autoflowering is the ability of a plant to manage its intake of sunlight and darkness throughout the year such that it can takes its cue to begin flowering according to an individual plant’s age rather than from the environment.

In other words, cannabis ruderalis uses its maturity stage to know when to begin flowering and it continues to do so until other environmental factor causes the plant to die. The ability of the ruderalis specie to know when to begin flowering in spite of the limited light cycles helps to protect it from unpredictable seasonal changes and the accompanying dangers.

The autoflowering nature of cannabis ruderalis is a bonus for many breeders who don’t have time to tend to a plant but just want to water it, add nutrients and wait for it to bloom.

Fast growth cycle

The growth cycle of the ruderalis plant is another advantage it has over other species as it can complete its life cycle (from being a seed to producing seeds) in about ten weeks. The average life cycle of a ruderalis plant is between 10 and 12 weeks. In other words, when cultivated, the plant usually begins flowering between 2 to 4 weeks and then it is ready for harvest about 100 days after its cultivation.

The ability of the plant to survive drastic conditions begins from cultivation as its seed detach easily and can remain alive for more than one season in frozen ground – until the conditions are favourable for growth. Going further, the seeds can also survive trampling by man and animals even when its shells are cracked. While all these might destroy the seeds of a typical plant, the seeds of the ruderalis can survive almost anything and still germinate when the conditions are favourable. Some studies have even shown that some strains of the plant need to be walked on by humans or animals to the germination of its seed.

Low in THC, High in CBD

Cannabis ruderalis has low levels of THC which is the psychoactive element in other species that creates a ‘high’. While this may be discouraging for users who are looking to get stoned, the plant is the perfect choice for people who want to reap the medicinal benefits without the psychoactive effects since. The specie has a high volume of CBD which can be used to treat conditions like childhood epilepsy, anxiety, cancer symptoms, inflammation, nausea and vomiting among many other ailments. This means patients can use the plant for its many benefits without worrying about worrying about the high-inducing properties, and that medicinal marijuana can make further progress without the ‘stoner’ stigma that comes with the prescription.

Creation of hybrids

Many growers are now developing hybrids of cannabis ruderalis so they can take advantage of the ruderalis genetics that makes it grow fast and autoflower. In addition, some growers are using the plant to create hybrids that can adapt to hardiest conditions as well as unforeseen changes in their environments. The aim of the hybridisation is to use a small percentage of the ruderalis just for its survival capabilities while minimizing the effects of its low yield nature and little THC content. The hybrids come from the combination of the indica or indica and ruderalis strains which increases the yields while retaining the beneficial characteristics of the ruderalis specie.

Wrap up

Cannabis ruderalis is the underdog of the cannabis family as it has not received the attention it deserves like its siblings. Apart from its many benefits which are linked to its high CBD content, new research suggests that ruderalis is more resistant to infestation by insects and a range of diseases. However, the specie is expected to become more popular than ever as it is now cultivated in large farms in central and eastern Europe, the Himalayas, and the former Soviet Union.

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