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.
When talking about cannabis strains, most will likely think of the two predominant subtypes: indica and sativa.
However, most everyday consumers aren’t aware that there is a lesser known type of cannabis that has transformed the world of cultivation and strain creation: Cannabis ruderalis.
So, what is ruderalis? To answer that question, let’s travel back to the origin of this unique type of cannabis.
The auto-flowering ability of Cannabis Ruderalis
Nearly all flowering plants take their cue to reproduce from seasonal changes in the climate, particularly the number of hours of daylight. The ability to begin flowering based on changes in the plant instead of its environment is known as ‘auto-flowering’. This is the most notable characteristic of the Ruderalis strain, its capacity to flower (and therefore reproduce) according to an individual plant’s age.
Cannabis Ruderalis will begin flowering when it achieves a certain stage of maturity – normally after about five to seven weeks of growth. Once Cannabis Ruderalishas begun flowering, it continues to do so until other environmental factors (most notably winter) cause the plant to die. The other varieties of cannabis may expire naturally once they have accomplished reproduction.
Is ruderalis the same as hemp?
Hemp isn’t a different species of cannabis. We use the term “hemp” to refer to a type of selectively bred cannabis that contains minimal THC levels. To qualify as hemp, cannabis in the US needs to contain less than 0.3% THC. In Europe, the threshold is between 0.2–0.3% THC depending on the country.
Even though Cannabis ruderalis has very low levels of THC (below 3%), it still has more than hemp. However, hemp and ruderalis often contain similar CBD levels, although these vary too.
Hemp is also a more versatile plant than ruderalis. Humans have cultivated hemp for millennia, using it for many different purposes, from making fabrics and paper to food, biofuel, and health supplements.
Ruderalis, on the other hand, is a type of cannabis used almost exclusively for one purpose: breeding.
In order to be classified as hemp, ruderalis would need to contain a THC content below the legal limits mentioned above. Otherwise, ruderalis would only be considered legal in areas where recreational and/or medical cannabis can be grown and purchased.
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.
Fast growth cycle
The adaptation of Cannabis Ruderalis to short, cool summers can be seen in other traits. Ruderalis has the ability to complete its life cycle – from being a seed to producing seeds – in just 10 weeks (though 12 to 14 weeks is more common). Its seeds detach easily and can survive more than one season in frozen ground – until conditions are favourable enough to allow growth. The seeds can also survive their shells being cracked open when walked on by humans or animals. For some Ruderalis strains, this occurrence may even aid the germination of seeds.
Cannabis Ruderalis today
Many autoflowering cannabis strains have seen the light of day in the last few years. This is due to several reasons: firstly, because many cannabis growers live in areas with climate conditions which are not ideal for cannabis growing. Secondly, because Ruderalis is an ‘all-purpose‘ species that can adapt to all kinds of growing environments.
Without this great option, growers in areas with adverse climates would not be able to accomplish their objective. Another reason for the existence of this type of cannabis seeds is that they are easier to grow, making it much simpler for rookie growers to obtain high-quality crops without having to worry about the duration of the light cycles. As long as the plants are provided with the right feeding regime, they will deliver a successful harvest regardless of the photoperiod that they’re subjected to.
All of this simplifies things and offers beginners the chance to obtain great results with regards to quality and quantity, for instance with strains such as Moby Dick XXL Auto, Haze XXL Auto, or Critical 2.0 Auto.
In order to obtain autoflowering varieties that fully express the specific features of their original strains, it is necessary to carry out selection and breeding processes on several generations. If this is performed correctly, the automatic version will faithfully reflect the distinctive traits of the original.