male marijuana plant Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Cannabis ruderalis refers to a possible third subspecies of the cannabis plant, in addition to the more well-known cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. Ruderalis plants have a distinct physical structure, and they are autoflowering, meaning flowering is induced by age as opposed to a change in available light. Cannabis ruderalis is native to Central and Eastern Europe; it grows wild in many regions, including Russia.     

More about cannabis ruderalis

You may already be familiar with the terms indica and sativa, but you probably haven't heard your budtender suggest ruderalis strains before. That's because it's more common to find ruderalis as a component breeders use to create an autoflowering version of a strain. But there's more to the cannabis ruderalis plant than that.   

Ruderalis genetic origin

In 1924, Russian botanist Dmitrij Janischewsky was the first to identify Cannabis ruderalis as the third cannabis subspecies. Its name is derived from the Latin word for rubble; ruderal species are the first ones that grow on disturbed land and are usually thought of as weeds. Janischewsky created this new classification after noticing that ruderalis plants look different than previously identified cannabis species and because of the unique traits in the plant's flowering cycle. The botanist noticed that while most cannabis plants begin to flower as a result of the changing available sunlight, ruderalis plants automatically begin to flower between 20 and 40 days after sprouting.

More recently, a 2004 study by K.W. Hillig identified C. ruderalis as a subspecies originating in central Asia, with strong physical similarities to C. sativa from the same region. Hillig's findings suggest that C. ruderalis is either a feral, autoflowering subtype of C. sativa, or a third and separate subspecies entirely, with similar geographic origins and THC to CBD ratios as C. sativa. Most botanists consider ruderalis somewhere between sativa and indica genetically.  

Differences from other cannabis species

As noted above, ruderalis plants look different from other cannabis species. Sativa and indica leaves have nine and seven points, respectively, and look like what we all recognize as the quintessential cannabis leaf. Ruderalis leaves, on the other hand, have three main points and two very small ones and are slightly lighter in color than indicas. The plants themselves are shorter (no more than two feet tall) and more compact than indicas or sativas with thick, sturdy stems and few flowers. 

As a feral plant known for growing among rubbish, ruderalis is hardy and resistant to pests and disease. That, in addition to its ability to flower automatically, regardless of the amount of available light, makes it highly desirable in producing autoflowering versions of other strains.

Besides its appearance and autoflowering characteristics, C. ruderalis also differs from the other cannabis subspecies because of its cannabinoid content. Generally speaking, ruderalis has less THC than indica or sativa and more CBD than most sativas. However, those are only broad terms since indica and sativa are far more useful terms for cultivators than for determining cannabinoid content or effects of modern cannabis.

Is ruderalis legal?

Ruderalis is a subspecies of the cannabis plant. As such, it's regulated in the same way as other cannabis species. Ruderalis is legal where cannabis is legal, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes, and illegal where cannabis is illegal.

Does ruderalis contain CBD?

The THC to CBD ratios of all three cannabis subspecies have changed significantly since commercial breeding began in earnest in the last 20 years. As stated earlier, indica, sativa, and ruderalis are terms more applicable to growth characteristics than cannabinoid content.

How long does it take to grow ruderalis?

Ruderalis plants usually flower 21 to 35 days after they begin to sprout leaves and are ready for harvest in another 49 to 77 days. Wild ruderalis plants likely began to flower quickly and automatically and developed their short, stocky stature due to the extreme environments found in their native habitat. 

Does ruderalis produce bud?

Ruderalis plants do produce a few buds, though they tend to be small.

Can I find ruderalis at a dispensary?

People aren't likely to find ruderalis strains for sale at a dispensary because the species is generally of greater interest to growers. Autoflowering seeds, which have ruderalis lineage, may be available.

You've probably noticed how hybrid cultivars have become as prominent as indicas and sativas, if not more so. All modern cultivars are technically hybrids, but the plants we officially classify as hybrids are the intentional crossbreeds of indicas and sativas, designed to produce specific qualities and effects. Similarly, growers breed hybrids with ruderalis strains to create hybrid seeds that auto-flower and exhibit desirable physical traits. Growers often label ruderalis hybrids as automatic or auto in reference to autoflowering. Popular examples include Royal Haze Auto, Amnesia Haze Auto, and Northern Lights Automatic.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on March 3, 2022.