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The Differences Between Cannabis Seeds : From Regular To Feminized To Autoflower

Added 1 April 2021

Over the past few decades, there has been a rise in feminized and autoflower cannabis seeds, resulting in what seems an almost infinite amount of choice for a grower to choose from.
If you are interested to get to know the differences between regular, feminized, and autoflowering seeds and where their origin comes from, then sit back and relax because you came to the right piece of cannabis intel!

1.Cannabis seeds : a brief introduction

Before the intervention of humans in the gene pool of species of Cannabis, all across the world, Mother Nature provided Earth with different species of Cannabis growing in all corners of the globe from Siberia to Jamaica to Europe. Some of these species got separated and grew in harsher climates than others and this resulted in a few differences.
These natural species can be divided into two main natural types : 

  • Ruderalis
  • Regular

A few of the criteria of differences to tell these species apart are :

  • moment of flowering/lifespan
  • yield
  • amount of THC/CBD
  • appearance

These differences are the result of species of cannabis being isolated for thousands of years and because of differences in climate and growing conditions given by nature they developed their own characteristics over time.


a. Ruderalis seeds origin 

These species of Cannabis can be found in some of the hardest environments for Cannabis to grow in.
Usually found in regions with brief summers and hard winters, for example, the Himalayas. These circumstances forced these species to adapt their own flowering schedule which is the number one aspect that sets these apart from regular species.
To put it in other words, Ruderalis plants will flower based on a certain age instead of a change in their light-schedule and will flower much quicker because of harsher climate changes through its short life cycle.
Because of these conditions and shorter life cycle Ruderalis have a low yield and do not produce high levels of THC, however, 
CBD levels can be higher than regular species. Their appearance also sets them apart from regular species since they usually don't grow over 0.75 meters in height and will always appear to be tinted light green. The leaf will not have more than 5 fingers and these fingers are very thin.


b. Regular seeds origin 

Regular seeds can be found all over the world but these grow in the more mild climate regions of the planet with shorter winters, and longer, stable summers.
These can be subdivided into 2 subcategories called Indica and Sativa, but the main characteristic about regular seeds in comparison to Ruderalis is that they are all photoperiod flowering plants.
Regular seeds will start flowering once the light schedule has been altered in a way that the amount of dark hours surpasses the number of light hours by a certain margin, the plant will start its flowering period as a reaction to this change in light. In nature, this is the all-tell sign of autumn coming closer which results in shorter days and longer nights. Indoor growers simulate this process by switching the period of lighting from for example 18 hours of light with 6 hours darkness to 12 hours with the lights on and 12 hours with the lights off.
The yield with these species will be much higher and will be more potent when it comes to levels of THC. The difference in the appearance of regular species is that these grow much taller with a darker color because of better growing circumstances and a longer life span. Individually these can also be separated by appearance and type of yield into Indica and Sativa. 

The term Hybrid itself comes from crossing regular species Indica and Sativa, which resulted in an abundance of hybrid strains to choose from in modern times.


Related story
What Is Sativa Cannabis?
Related story
What Is Indica Cannabis?

2. Human intervention and the rise of feminized and autoflower seeds

Humanity and Cannabis have a relationship dating back thousands of years. From western China to Syria, archaeologists from around the world have spotted signs of ancient cannabis use. This goes from using it as a building material such as ropes and cloth, but also for medical and recreational purposes.

It is one of the oldest crops humans have been cultivating but it is only since very recent human history that we have actually started manipulating the ways of breeding and growing cannabis to fit our needs to the maximum. 
Because of human intervention, we have two more categories of cannabis seeds which are: feminized and autoflowering seeds.

a. Feminized seeds origin and 'Female Pollen'

For growers looking for maximum yields of nice buds, it is of pure essence that all plants in the growing area are female because those are the ones who grow the nice buds we are all looking for to enjoy from! We can only cringe our backs by thinking of the idea of having a successful grow going on, for us then to find a male hidden across the fields of happiness that could possibly ruin the entire yield.
This is where feminized seeds came in as the perfect solution!
It was somewhere in the late 80's and early 90's that Dutch growers were able to figure out the process of making feminized seeds that resulted in a 99% efficiency rate on growing female plants only.

Here is how it happened :

Regular female plants were left to flower longer than needed and it was observed that they started producing male flowers. However! Because of the lifespan of the plants it seemed impossible that the plant could still pollinate itself in order to reproduce seeds.
Carefully these growers collected the pollen that came from these male flowers and used this to pollinate other regular female plants.
The results were MIND BLOWING at the time!
Not only were all the plants grown from these seeds female, the process was repeatable over and over again!
It became obvious that the pollen coming off these late male flowers only could produce female plants and so came the term "female pollen".

The first feminized seeds were commercially introduced in November 1998 by Dutch Passion. The main grower behind the operation at the time was Henk Van Dalen and he is the founder behind Dutch Passion and received The First ‘High Times Dutch Master Award’ for his contributions to the cannabis industry.


"Henk Van Dalen"

b. Autoflowers seeds and their origin

Over the past decade, there has been a firm increase in the number of autoflower seeds available on the market. Not only are these perfect for the rookie grower to get started because of their ability to flower automatically, but these also have several benefits such as multiple and quick harvests in a year on a small surface and little work to maintain them. Now the term autoflower speaks mostly for itself, yet, in nature, the only one we know of is the Ruderalis and as stated before: those have a low yield and do not produce high levels of THC. And that is not what most growers are looking for! Nonetheless, in modern times we find many autoflower strains with big yields and high levels of THC in a very short life span...

The origin behind autoflower seeds and the reason why they flower automatically is that growers were able to unify the uniqueness of the Ruderalis plants that has the genes that make it flower automatically with the genes of the regular photoperiod plants, that produce bigger and more potent yields resulting in a plant that flowers by itself with a great harvest.

Here is how it went :

A grower by the name of 'Joint Doctor' got hold of seeds he called 'Mexican Rudy' from which he never was able to figure out the exact origin of, he believes they are most likely a cross between Russian Ruderalis and Mexican regular species from a 70's experiment at the University of Mississippi. After crossing these 'Mexican Rudy' with Northern Lights because of its small appearance he produced the F1 seed. This F1 seed was grown and then again crossed with several clones and it was only after crossing with Williams Wonder that several of the male plants flowered automatically.
The pollen was used from these males to create the next batch of seedlings and behold! They all flowered withing 60 days, from seed to harvest!
It still took several generations of plants but the very first commercially available autoflower seed was called 'Lowryder' by 'Joint Doctor' in the early 2000's.


"The Joint Doctor"

3. Table summary

Type of SeedLifespanYieldTHC levelsAppearanceFlowers
Ruderalisvery shortvery lowvery low but higher in CBDvery short plant structure and light green leaves with max 5 fingers and 50/50 male/femaleflowers at a certain age point by itself, very early and short period of flowering
Regularlonger and controllable indoorshigherhightaller plant structure and darker leaves with over 5 fingers and 50/50 male/femalestarts flowering once the light schedule gets altered, for example from 18/6 to 12/12 hours of light and darkness with a long period of flowering
Feminizedlonger and controllable indoorsvery high because 99% efficiency to grow only female plantsvery high because of selective breeding and crossingtaller plant structure and darker leaves with over 5 fingers and 99% female populationstart flowering once the light schedule gets altered, for example from 18/6 to 12/12 hours of light and darkness with a long period of flowering
Autoflowersshort and not controllablehigh but the lifespan is not controllablehigh because of selective breeding and crossing short plant structure and darker leaves with over 5 fingersflowers at a certain age point by itself but has a shorter flower period

If you found this article was useful to you, take the opportunity to leave a thought down below in the comments section!

4. References :

Oldest evidence marijuana use - Andrew Lawler (2019)

What are feminized seeds - Dutch Joe (2014)

History of autoflowering seeds - Dinafem (2012)

This article was updated April 2021