Cannabis originates from Central Asia and was spread outside of the region by humans. Consequently, cannabis grew as both a wild and cultivated plant in regions across the world. Cannabis plants that developed a consistent set of characteristics through adaptation and/or cultivation are referred to as landrace strains. Some believe that genetics carried by landrace strains are optimal because they perpetuate natural chemical profiles and resiliencies. They are, thus, more in line with natural-based medicine and more inclined for larger, healthier yields.
The characteristics of these plants divide them into cannabis subspecies: Indica, Sativa and the lesser known Ruderalis. Purity is uncommon and most strains that we see today are hybrids, which display a variety of attributes.
Cannabis ruderalis grows wild in the Northern Himalayas, Northeastern Europe, and Midwestern United States. It is shorter, with a larger stem-than-leaf ratio. It is also more resistant to mold/mildew/pests and contains virtually no THC. When bred with Sativas and Indicas, it can produce autoflowering hybrids.
Due to these attributes, Ruderalis is not used on its own for medical or recreational marijuana. While it’s mostly grown for commercial hemp, recent success breeding with Sativa and Indica strains should increase its use. While described as a species alongside Sativa and Indica, it’s argued that Ruderalis is a subspecies of farmed Sativas that escaped into the wild. Another theory is Ruderalis were rogue drifters gone wild from Central Asian Indicas.
Indica and Sativa
New taxonomy research leans toward defining Indicas and Sativas based on their ethno-botanical evolution. Indicas are plants that were primarily grown for their psychotropic effect, while Sativas were generally grown for industrial use. This taxonomy, while possibly more accurate, doesn’t fit common descriptions of what defines Indica vs Sativa.
Despite new taxonomy research and the rarity of pure Indica or Sativa strains, there are common qualities for each that are helpful to keep in mind. Here are a few:
Indica-dominant plants are described to:
Have maintained their origins closer to Central Asia
Have shorter growth cycles
Produce broader leaves
Grow shorter and more robust
Produce an intoxicating effect that is more sedative and full-body
Sativa-dominant plants are described to:
Originate in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Americas
Have longer growth cycles
Produce skinnier leaves
Grow taller and thinner
Produce an intoxicating effect that is more uplifting and heady