What is cannabis ruderalis?
Indicas and sativas are the most famous types of cannabis, but ruderalis shouldn’t be left out of the conversation. The very term ruderalis is born out of the Latin word rudera, plural form of rudus, which translates into english as “rubble”. 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. A 2005 study compared the genetics of C. indica, C. sativa, and C. ruderalis and found that the ruderalis gene pool lies somewhere between hemp and drug-type cannabis varieties.
This suggests that ruderalis could be an escaped hybrid that has become wild over time, taking on distinct characteristics as a result of inbreeding and environmental pressures.
Ruderalis is visibly different from sativas and indicas. For starters, ruderalis is much shorter, and only grows to a maximum height of 2 to 2.5 feet. The leaf fingers are short and wide similar to indica strains, but overall ruderalis has fewer leaves than indica or sativa. The short and sturdy stature of ruderalis makes it ideal for growing outdoors, and because it has been wild for so long, it is highly resistant to pests and disease. 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.
Ruderalis produces very little THC, which lowers its appeal for recreational users seeking a powerful “high.”
However, ruderalis often has significant levels of CBD and has gained popularity with modern breeders because of this.
Even though ruderalis can be considered a wild type of cannabis without any of the useful psychoactive or industrial properties of its cultivated cousins, ruderalis still has some uses for modern breeders.
In fact the weedy, wild traits of cannabis ruderalis can be very helpful for creating new hybrid strains. Sativa strains are well adapted to hot, tropical climates and can grow up to 20 feet tall. When grown indoors, the upper parts may end up getting burned by the heat produced by growing lamps, while the lower parts of the plant remain cool. Outdoor environments are usually better for cultivating taller sativa plants, but this puts the crops at greater risk of pests and disease.
Ruderalis, with its diminutive size and hardy pest resistance, makes for a great addition to the sativa gene pool. When hybridized, outdoor crops gain protection against pests, and indoor crops can be reduced to a more manageable height. Being very low in THC, ruderalis strains usually have to be crossbred with pure sativas to get the high THC levels sought by most cannabis users.
Since ruderalis strains typically have more CBD than THC, they can also be crossed with indicas to produce high-CBD strains for medical use. The fast growing, auto-flowering nature of ruderalis can also be useful for speeding up the slow maturation time of sativas. Additionally, auto-flowering reduces the risk of frost damage in outdoor crops, as ruderalis plants tend to flower earlier in the season. 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.
Certain strains have become very popular:
- NORTHERN LIGHT AUTO (indica)
- SWEET SKUNK AUTOMATIC (indica)
- AMNESIA HAZE AUTOMATIC (sativa)
- ROYAL DWARF (sativa)
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