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What Is Cannabis Ruderalis?

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JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 6 November 2020

What Is Cannabis Ruderalis?

When people talk about cannabis we usually only hear about the Sativa and Indica strains. Most of the seeds available on the market today are hybrid crosses of these two famous genetics, however there is a third species we often forget about. This relative of the cannabis plant has changed the growing industry forever. Read on to find out more about the one and only cannabis Ruderalis strain.

What Is Ruderalis?

Cannabis Ruderalis is a member of the Cannabaceae family. The word 'ruderalis' stems from Latin, and translates to 'rubble' or 'lump'. A ruderal species can be defined as a plant which colonizes disturbed areas of land. These plants can appear either by natural occurrences or due to some human intervention of the land. The Cannabis Ruderalis can be found growing wild in many parts of the world. 

Ruderalis plants produce seeds that are very hard compared to other types of cannabis seed. This means a Ruderalis seed can stay dormant in the ground for weeks until the conditions signal it to grow. Its unique ability to mature 'automatically' is quite different to that of a photoperiodic plant, which would not be able to survive the same conditions.

Wild Ruderalis Hemp

Ruderalis plants have grown wild in this way for many years, across many different countries, such as those found in Northern Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe. They are found growing in some of the harshest climates, and due to their hardy nature, are sometimes even able to survive in freezing conditions. The short summers and long winters in these areas meant the Ruderalis developed in such a way that it would flower based on its age rather than relying on a change in the light cycle.

The History Of Ruderalis

The Ruderalis strain was first classified in 1924 by a Russian botanist named D. E. Janischewsky. He realised that the Ruderalis species was notably different from other described species of cannabis. The strain was recorded growing wild in Siberia and parts of the Himalayas, and due to its morphology, it was understood to be hardier in nature than its cousins; the Sativa and Indica species.

Related story
What Is Sativa Cannabis?

In the 1980s, Ruderalis seeds arrived in Amsterdam where they were studied and bred in controlled conditions. Specific characteristics in the Ruderalis phenotype were found to be extremely positive for breeding faster flowering plants that removed their dependency on photoperiodism. This is how autoflowering seeds were born, which are essentially hybrids that combine the fast maturing, resilient genes of the wild Ruderalis with THC/CBD rich Sativa or Indica dominant photoperiod strains.

Cannabis Ruderalis Characteristics

Ruderalis Cannabis Leaf

The Ruderalis cannabis genetic can be recognised through these various plant characteristics:

Appearance - The Ruderalis plant has a structure that makes it easily distinguishable when placed next to an Indica or Sativa variety. They tend to be shorter, rarely reaching heights of over to 2-2.5 feet, or about 3/4 of a meter. The main stem can grow relatively thick, and branches are usually quite thin, fibrous and rough to the touch. They do not branch out heavily and grow spacious, broad foliage (5 finger leaves) that has a lighter than average green tone.

Flowers - The buds on a Ruderalis plant are small but can grow compact. Naturally, the shorter cycle means the plant doesn't grow to the same size as its Sativa or Indica counterparts. The dense flower structure is likely to have evolved as a way to deal with the slightly lower temperatures in the areas it predominantly grew in. Yields are low but rich in CBD (cannabidiol).

Autoflowering Genetics - One of the most desired traits of the Ruderalis plant is undoubtedly its short flowering time. Normally, a Ruderalis strain in the wild will flower in less than 30 days. This is where Autoflowering plants stem from. Sativa and Indica genetics have been crossed with Ruderalis to create hybrids that feature the best characteristic from both sides. The Ruderalis gene is also responsible for an autoflowers' high resistance to cold or mold.

Cannabinoids - Ruderalis flowers have very low levels of THC in comparison to other cannabis species. However, they can contain fairly high levels of CBD. In this sense, the Ruderalis has not fallen short of potential uses and has, in fact been used medicinally and therapeutically in some cultures across the globe for years, both for it's fibre and flower. Now, we have plenty of strains that have Ruderalis traits where the goal has been to increase plant size and THC.

Maturity - The ability to mature in such a short space of time is typical for a Ruderalis strain. The cycle from seed to harvest can be as little as 70 days, depending on where the seed grows.

SpeciesAvg. Flowering Time
Ruderalis6 - 8 weeks
Sativa10 - 16 weeks
Indica7 - 10 weeks

Growing Ruderalis

Autoflowering Cannabis Plant

Most of the time, Ruderalis is grown either as hemp, or it is used by breeders to create new strains that retain the autoflowering trait, amongst others, to increase potency and yields. A tall Sativa could be crossed with a Ruderalis and the result would be a shorter plant with buds that contains high THC. The flowering cycle would be much faster in comparison. 

It is rare that you get the chance to try pure Ruderalis unless you decide to grow it at home. Even so, finding seeds is quite a challenge. Most of the Ruderalis strains available on the market today only contain a very small percentage of the original genes, which is only really there for the autoflowering trait. That means nowadays Ruderalis hybrids tend to have either high THC or CBD on top of the fast flowering, automatic nature of the plant.

Effects Of Cannabis Ruderalis

Cannabis Ruderalis Flower

High CBD content cannabis flowers are becoming popular for their medicinal potential, however it is well known that CBD does not get you 'high' in the same way THC does. Original Ruderalis strains do not produce THC and like many hemp varieties, contain some CBD, which has been found to be beneficial in treating certain conditions, such as insomnia or epilepsy.

The effects of CBD may include:

  • Relaxation/Calm
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Easier Sleep
  • Increased Appetite
  • Reduced inflammation

Cannabis Trichomes

CBD is not intoxicating but it does have an effect on the brain and body. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for how we process cannabinoids when they are consumed and it regulates many body functions. CBD directly communicates with the receptors that form part of the endocannabinoid system, helping to keep the body in a state of homeostasis.


The Ruderalis cannabis plant is to thank for many feats in the commercial growing industry. Growers have used the Ruderalis gene to their advantage and are now able to grow more plants each year without having to worry as much about light cycles. Autoflowering cannabis genetics have given growers across the world an easy way to start growing, even in colder climates.

Bruce Banner Auto by Habosabin from GrowDiaries.

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External References

Physiological and biochemical features of Cannabis ruderalis in the Chui valley. Journal of Biotechnology. - Akhtaeva, Nursulu & Boribay, Elmira & Mamurova, Assem & Kiekbaeva, Lashyn & Inerbaeva, Saniya. (2014).

Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?. Journal of epilepsy research, 7(2), 61–76. - Perucca E. (2017). 

Isolation and investigation of antibacterial properties of preparations from wild hemp (Cannabis ruderalis) growing in the Ukraine. Mikrobiolohichnyĭ zhurnal. - RABINOVICH, A & AIZENMAN, B & ZELEPUKHA, S. (1959). 

This article was updated October 2020.