What Is Sativa Cannabis?

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Added 13 October 2020

Cannabis Sativa Grown Outdoors

Cannabis Sativa is an annual plant that originates from parts of Asia and Central America. Sativa cannabis has been used in many applications over the years by different cultures for its strong fibres, medicinal properties, and nutrition, as well as for a number of spiritual and religious healing practices.

From what we know about marijuana, Cannabis Sativa is the type of weed that has the most extensive history. Originally cultivated as hemp, cannabis Sativa became a popular material in manufacturing, with its fibres being used in all kinds of tools such as rope or fabrics. Nowadays, the Sativa plant is enjoyed by many stoners and is slowly re-establishing itself as a valid treatment in the medical industry.

Original Sativa genetics are aren't as common as you might think. Luckily, we have plenty of Sativa dominant strains available on the market that allow us to get a taste of this wonderful plant. This article delves into the famous Cannabis Sativa plant to find out why we love it so much.

Cannabis Sativa Flower

What Is Cannabis Sativa?

The Cannabis Sativa is a member of the Cannabaceae family, which also includes many types of tree and other herbaceous plants. Both hemp and marijuana varieties belong to this species for their plant and flower structure, as well as how they pollinate (via the wind). Low THC Sativa strains are more commonly used in industrial hemp practices, whereas higher THC content Sativas can be grown for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Cannabis Sativa was first described in the 1700s by Carl Linnaeus, who classified the plant as a new species. The hot temperatures in India and eastern Asia meant the growth of the cannabis Sativa resulted in a predominantly vertical plant and spacious, airy flowers. Sativa seeds made it across Europe and other parts of the world, where growers began experimenting with cultivation in all kinds of climates

Cannabis Sativa Hemp Farm

Pure landrace Sativas are tricky to come across these days. With the introduction of selective breeding and indoor cultivation, we now we have plenty of hybrid crosses that mean Sativas are far from what they used to be.

These newer strains tend to feature the best qualities of all cannabis species. It can be hard to pick out the true Sativa characteristics amongst the huge mix of genes but normally a breeder will tell you the ratio of Sativa to Indica so you have more or less of an idea.

To properly identify a Sativa cannabis plant we need to consider these 6 things:

  • Plant Height
  • Internodal Spacing
  • Leaf Size
  • Structure
  • Flowering Time
  • Cannabinoids

Sativa plants are usually grown outdoors for their height, which can reach up to 5 or 6 metres depending on the strain and region they are grown in. Throughout their long cycle, Sativas need plenty of sunlight and warm temperatures. Most cannabis Sativa plants have a flowering period of between 10 - 16 weeks, meaning they thrive best in regions that experience long, hot summers, like those close to the equator. 

Identifying Sativa Cannabis

A Sativa Cannabis plant can be described in a number of ways through its physical characteristics. Grown indoors, these wild plants will try to follow a similar cycle as they would outdoors. They grow much larger than their main family relative, the Cannabis Indica. The early tell tale signs of a Sativa plant are mostly seen through the leaves.

Cannabis Sativa Leaf

A cannabis Sativa can display the following characteristics:

  • Long, narrow leaves, with up to 9 fingers.
  • Usually lighter green, compared to Indicas.
  • One main cola, with few lateral branches.
  • Tall, spacious, airy structure.
  • Long flowering times (up to 16 weeks)
  • High THC and low CBD content

The plant structure of a Sativa is usually tall and lanky with the main stem developing one main cola that extends past few side branches. During the first weeks of flowering, a cannabis Sativa can explode in size, sometimes doubling or tripling in height. Distancing between the leaf nodes is higher in a Sativa than in an Indica, with long buds forming around the nodes working their way up. The spacious structure of the Sativa means flowers extend along the stems rather than compacting around the leaf nodes.

Cannabis Sativa Plant

The colour of the buds on a Cannabis Sativa are often a light green hue, with tones of red, orange or yellow. It is possible that the environmental temperature has an effect of the colours of a cannabis plant. Higher temperatures often result in lighter hues, whereas lower temperatures can darken the leaves.

Related story
What Is Indica Cannabis?

Flavour And Aroma of Sativas

Sativas are often classified for their intense, citrusy aroma with hints of spicy summer fruits. Some of the most classic flavours derive from the cannabis Sativa, with strains like Durban Poison or Amnesia Haze now being famous all over the world for their delicious taste and high they deliver.

The terpene profile of a cannabis Sativa is relatively complex but has been fairly well studied. Terpenes found in many other fruits or plants are also significant in a cannabis flower. Limonene, for example, is a terpene oil that gives lemons their lovely, citrusy taste and smell.

There is quite an extensive list of terpenes that can be found in cannabis, although only some have been properly studied. Some of these oils make up a large portion of the terpene profile and others are almost non-existent.

  • Myrcene - Earth
  • Linalool - Floral
  • Limonene - Citrus
  • Caryophyllene - Spice
  • Pinene - Pine

Charas Made From Cannabis Sativa

Effects of Sativa Cannabis

The Sativa flower is known for its 'head high' effect, with many reports of an uplifting, energetic experience that can even be hallucinogenic. This psychedelic experience provided by the cannabis Sativa derives primarily from the high ratio of THC compared to other cannabinoids present in the flowers.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound responsible for the intense cerebral high we experience when we consume Sativas. Unlike Indica strains, Sativas have a low CBD content which means the effect of THC is usually stronger. THCA is another cannabinoid quite heavily present in the bud resin, although it is still uncertain how much of a psychoactive effect this compound has.

Trichomes On A Cannabis Sativa Plant

Consuming a cannabis Sativa can induce a highly focused state with a creative touch, but like all cannabis plants, it depends on the exact strain and how it was grown. Consumers have experienced all kinds of high when it comes to consuming cannabis, so much of it is personal. It is not logical to base the effect of cannabis solely on whether it is Sativa or Indica because a huge part of it has to do with the cannabinoid concentration, which varies from strain to strain.

We are still discovering how different cannabinoids affect the experience of consuming weed. Unfortunately, the lack of research due to the illegality of cannabis has slowed testing and development in this area of horticulture. However, progress is being made and we now know more about the cannabis plant than ever before. 

Sativa Plant by rektshawn from GrowDiaries.


We have the cannabis Sativa to thank for many of the wonderful strains available today. The Sativa paved the way for the cannabis species, and is now widely recognised for its huge amount of uses. Not only can it get you high, the cannabis Sativa has the possibility to revolutionise certain industries.

Cannabis is making progress, and as more laws get lifted across the globe, the deeper we can dive into researching this amazing plant. If you've got any tips or thoughts on Cannabis Sativa, drop us a comment down below!

External References

Terpenes in Cannabis Sativa - From Plant Genome To Humans. Plant Sci. - Booth JK, Bohlmann J. (2019)

Minor Cannabinoids of Cannabis sativa L.. Journal of Medical Science. - Thomas, Fabian & Kayser, Oliver. (2019). 

Cannabis sativa (hemp). - Rédei, George. (2008). 

This article was updated September 2020.


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