The name ‘ruderalis’ comes from ‘ruderal’, a term for wild plant species which are the first to colonise land that has been disturbed by natural forces or human activity. Ruderal species commonly grow by roadsides or on agricultural land that has been left fallow.
Harsh Origins of Ruderalis
Cannabis Ruderalis is tentatively described as the third type of cannabis, as botanists are unsure whether it qualifies as a species in its own right. Ruderalis is an uncultivated strain native to Russia, central Europe and central Asia and is adapted to the harsher environments found in these locations. Whether seen as a variation on the single cannabis species or as a distinct species in itself, Ruderalis types of cannabis are most likely descended from Indica varieties which, in turn, are probably descended from Sativas.
The differences between these three in their growing and reproductive patterns can be linked to the vastly different environments encountered by the original tropical phenotype Cannabis Sativa L. As it spread further and further north of the equator after the last ice age, the different types evolved to survive in new climates. Human intervention and agriculture has also had significant effects on Indica and Sativa gene-pools, but much less influence on wild Ruderalis.
The Smallest Type of Cannabis
A typical Cannabis Ruderalis plant is very short in height, often between 30cm and 80cm when fully grown. It produces only a few branches and has wide, fat-bladed leaves, similar to those of Cannabis Indica. Once flowering begins, Ruderalis will gain even less height than an Indica strain.
The Auto-Flowering Ability of Cannabis Ruderalis
The most notable characteristic of the Ruderalis strain is its capacity to flower (and therefore reproduce) according to an individual plant’s age, independent of the photo-period in which it is growing.
Nearly all flowering plants take their cue to reproduce from seasonal changes in the climate, particularly the number of hours of daylight. The ability to begin flowering based on changes in the plant instead of its environment is known as ‘auto-flowering’.
Cannabis Ruderalis will begin flowering when it achieves a certain stage of maturity – around the time it produces its fifth to seventh pair of leaves (fifth to seventh node), which normally occurs after about five to seven weeks of growth. Once Cannabis Ruderalis has begun flowering, it continues to do so until other environmental factors (most notably winter) cause the plant to die. The other varieties of cannabis may expire naturally once they have accomplished reproduction, or may return to vegetative growth if given a long photo-period.
Fast Growth Cycle
The adaptation of Cannabis Ruderalis to short, cool summers can be seen in other areas. Ruderalis has the ability to complete its life cycle – from being a seed to producing seeds – in just 10 weeks (though 12 to 14 weeks is more common). Its seeds detach easily and can survive more than one season in frozen ground – until conditions are favourable enough to allow growth. The seeds can also survive their shells being cracked open when walked on by humans or animals. For some Ruderalis strains, this occurrence may even aid the germination of seeds.
Properties and Applications of Cannabis Ruderalis
Wild Cannabis Ruderalis strains are nearly always low in THC and relatively high in CBD.
While pure Ruderalis strains have little value in terms of fibre or recreational use, their hardiness, their auto-flowering capability and their extremely fast maturation time are of great interest to cannabis breeders. Hybrids made from combining Indica and Ruderalis strains are currently proving to be some of the earliest-maturing outdoor plants available.
Ruderalis hybrids are also useful for medicinal applications in cases where the therapeutic benefits of CBD are preferred without the attendant psychoactive effects of high-THC strains.