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What is Cannabis Ruderalis? The Unknown 3rd Cannabis Species, and Why it’s Special

diagram showing Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis

Cannabis Ruderalis is not nearly as well known as its more popular cousins, Indica and Sativa


When tourists go on our cannabis farm tours, they don’t only enjoy an amazing day visiting award winning wineries and pot farms in California’s famed Emerald Triangle.  They don’t just head home with the experience of imbibing the best bud the weed farmers from Mendocino Farms have to offer.  They also leave knowing more about cannabis than they ever have before.  So here’s a little tidbit of what guests learn on our 420 tours.


Most people are familiar with the two most popular species of cannabis, Sativa and Indica.  When I ask if they know what the third cannabis species is, some say hybrid, but that is just a mix of (typically) Sativa and Indica produced by cross breeding the two.  Some answer hemp, but hemp is actually a type of Cannabis Sativa.


So what’s the mystery third cannabis species?  Cannabis Ruderalis – a mystery indeed, as most people, even many cannabis professionals, don’t know very much about it.


Cannabis Ruderalis is thought to be a descendant of Cannabis Indica that adapted to more extreme climates, and, more importantly, extreme light conditions in parts of the globe near the Arctic Circle. Like the Himalayas, the Russian steppes, and Siberia.


Rows of Cannabis Ruderalis crosses at Tall Tree Society Farms in Northern California

Cannabis Ruderalis are the smallest of cannabis plants


Why haven’t you heard of Cannabis Ruderalis before?  Because Cannabis Ruderalis is a small plant that, much like hemp, doesn’t produce very much THC at all.


So why is Cannabis Ruderalis important?


It has to do with how cannabis plants flower.  Both Cannabis strains that are well known – Sativa and  Indica – flower by light cycle.  Here in the northern hemisphere the natural growth cycle of the plant typically has seeds germinating in late May or early June, and the flowers matured and ready for harvest in October.  The part of the cannabis that produces all the desirable cannabinoids that people grow weed for is the flower.  After summer, as the days shorten, the diminishing light triggers the plant to flower.  Indoor growers have to turn their grow lights off for 12 hours a day to cause their plants to flower.  


a close up of Cannabis Ruderalis colas

Despite the plants being small, they developed surprisingly large colas at our partner farm, Tall Tree Society


What makes Cannabis Ruderalis special is that, because it evolved in places near the Arctic Circle with little light, it evolved a unique trait from other cannabis species.  It is what is called an auto flower.  Ruderalis plants mature quickly, and begin to flower once they mature, regardless of the light conditions they’re in.  Whenever you see a plant that is designated as an auto-flowering plant, it is a Ruderalis cross.  The Ruderalis genetics make the plant flower without regard to light cycle, and the Indica or Sativa genetics make the plant produce the cannabinoids we all seek in cannabis.


For indoor growers this means that they never have to turn their lights off, and can continue to feed light to their plants all the way up until harvest, and for outdoor growers this means that they can grow preseason or post season crops without any artificial light enhancement.


At our partner farm, Tall Tree Society, one greenhouse has been dedicated to an early preseason Ruderalis grow.  The short plants grew surprisingly large colas despite their small size.


Three cannasseurs on one of the nicest pot farms in California

If you’d like to see, smell, and yes, even smoke these flowers in person, come on one of our cannabis farm tours


If you’d like to see, smell, and even smoke these plants up close, or you want to learn more about cannabis growth, and California’s cannabis history and culture, come on a cannabis farm tour with us, and learn more about cannabis than you ever knew before on an amazing day in The Emerald Triangle with us.  It’s beautiful in California cannabis country, and there’s just no substitute for being there in person!


See you in Mendo!