Indica and Sativa's Lesser-Known Little Sister: Cannabis Ruderalis

By Lee G Lyzit
Published: August 18, 2017 | Last updated: June 25, 2021 09:34:40
Key Takeaways

Shorter, weaker, and with a low THC content, it’s easy to see why many people don’t even know that a species called cannabis ruderalis even exists.

Among cannabis cultivators and enthusiasts, indica and sativa are commonly known cannabis species. However, unbeknownst to many, a third species of cannabis exists.


This third species hasn’t received nearly the same amount of attention as indicas or sativas. The third species is known as cannabis ruderalis. Unlike indicas and sativas, which have origins in south and central Asia, ruderalis is native to Russia.

Ruderalis comes from the Latin word “rudera”, which means rubbish or debris. A fitting name considering cannabis ruderalis prefers disturbed soils and is generally found growing in areas where humans have disrupted ecological habitats.


Although cannabis ruderalis is one of the three primary species of the cannabis plant, it is far less popular than indica or sativa. This is primarily due to cannabis ruderalis’s very low THC content. In fact, the THC content of ruderalis is so low, it is rarely, if ever, considered for recreational use. Its low THC content isn’t the only reason why ruderalis is widely ignored.

(Read also: It Runs in the Family: Understanding Different Cannabis Phenotypes)

The naturally short stature of cannabis ruderalis makes it unsuitable for use as industrial hemp also. In fact, cannabis ruderalis rarely grows more than two feet in height. The combination of its low THC content and unsuitability for industrial use is why many people don’t even know ruderalis exists.


There is, however, one unique quality of cannabis ruderalis which makes this species an invaluable asset to the future of cannabis production. That trait is ruderalis’s ability to autoflower.

Illustration of ruderalis leaves versus indica and sativa


Autoflowering Ruderalis

Ruderalis is truly unique because, unlike indicas and sativas, ruderalis is an autoflowering plant species. Autoflowering plants are plants which start their reproductive process based on their age, rather than the photoperiod.

Unlike indicas and sativas, whose flowering cycles are triggered by the amount of light they receive in a 24-hour period, the ruderalis species will mature in approximately seven weeks, regardless of the photoperiod.

This unique characteristic is what makes ruderalis a valuable asset to breeders. Breeders use ruderalis to create hybrids with the autoflowering trait. The naturally short stature of ruderalis is also extremely attractive to indoor horticulturists.

(Read also: Maximizing Autoflowering Cannabis Growth)

Ruderalis can also be used to create hybrids whose smaller statures are easier to control in an indoor environment. Not only are short and compact plants easier to manage, they also offer a grower a chance to better utilize his or her garden’s light energy.

Ruderalis varieties were first introduced into commercial breeding programs in the 1980s and have since been used to create a wide variety of autoflowering hybrid strains.

By breeding ruderalis with sativa or indica, breeders are able to create autoflowering hybrids with reputable THC content.

CBD and Medicinal Potential of Ruderalis

Although ruderalis isn’t prized for its cannabinoid content, it does contain a higher amount of CDB than THC, which makes it useful for breeding high-CBD autoflowering strains. Some indica/ruderalis hybrids are able to mature more quickly, therefore producing CBD more quickly than straight indica strains.

Strains that mature quickly and also contain a high amount of CBD will be the future of medicinal cannabis production. Breeders are getting better and better at stabilizing the autoflowering trait in hybrids. In fact, some modern hybrids can mature in as little as 21-30 days.

The typical flowering cycle of a sativa or indica plant is somewhere around eight weeks, so a ruderalis hybrid could mature in about half that time. The ability to harvest quickly and more often is invaluable to both breeders and medicinal patients who grow their own medicine.

(Read also: What it’s Oil About: Understanding Hemp, CBD, and Cannabis Oils)

At first sight, cannabis ruderalis doesn’t look like much. In fact, most growers would scoff at its weak-looking stature. However, ruderalis continues to offer unique advantages which fill particular niches within the cannabis industry. Autoflowering strains can offer huge advantages to horticulturists, including the possibility of multiple outdoor harvests without the use of light deprivation.

Short-statured ruderalis hybrids can help indoor horticulturists maximize their light energy and increase the garden’s return on investment. There is no doubt that ruderalis breeding programs will continue to play an important role in the future of cannabis production.

As our society increases its acceptance of cannabinoid-based medicines, we will be able to explore the potential of ruderalis hybrids even further. Who knows? Maybe the least popular species of cannabis will turn out to be the most influential component in the future of cannabis production.


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Written by Lee G Lyzit | Grower, Writer

Profile Picture of Lee G Lyzit

Lee G. Lyzit has been involved in the cannabis industry for nearly 20 years. His passion for natural healing motivates him to learn as much as he can about the miraculous cannabis plant. Lee’s knowledge of cannabis gardening stems from his own extensive cultivation experiences and his past work as a hydroponic shop owner and manager.

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