What is Cannabis Ruderalis and Why Did It Change Everything

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Originally published at cannabis.net

So what is cannabis ruderalis? There are a ton of varieties of cannabis, some that will never be popular enough to come across and others that are found in every dispensary. Yet, some strains that would never be popular can make their way into daily use. This happens because these strains have a special trait that only become useful when they’re combined with something we use in daily life—think of how much watermelon has changed since the Renaissance.

Cannabis Ruderalis

A still life by Giovanni Stanchi—not nearly as delicious as the varieties we have today!

The same principle applies to cannabis—breeders have been focusing on specific cannabis traits for centuries, selectively breeding higher potency, more attractive smell, more attractive colorations, and even size. These new plants are technically genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but that term tends to carry a loaded connotation (since certain American companies create GMO plants that are resistant to pesticides and herbicides, ultimately lowering nutritional content and the rest of the not-so-great side effects we’re familiar with).

Cannabis that we know and love today is quite different from the cannabis of the ancient world (or even the 70s, just ask your parents)—it’s stronger, tastier, and all around a better quality plant.

Cannabis Ruderalis

Your grandad smoking hashish, probably. Smoking Hashish by Emile Bernard, 1900, courtesy Wikiart.org

Cannabis ruderalis is one of these varieties of cannabis that would have probably been lost to time if not for a special trait. Cannabis ruderalis originated in the Volga River Valley in Russia (most likely) but was first identified in Siberia in 1924. C. ruderalis has also been found throughout North America and central and eastern Europe; it wasn’t ever a strain that people were interested in until the 1980s when seeds of cannabis ruderalis were sent to the Seed Bank in Amsterdam.

Why Did Cannabis Ruderalis Change Everything?

While growers observed C. ruderalis they noted a special characteristic: flowering based upon maturity rather than on light levels. cannabis ruderalis developed this trait naturally over millions of years of growing in northern regions where light levels throughout the year vary so drastically that plants must grow quickly or lose out on the energy available in those short summer months.

C. ruderalis takes advantage of this by having an extremely quick grow cycle, blooming in just a few weeks, so as to spread its pollen and seeds before the cold winter hits again.

Cannabis Ruderalis

C.ruderalis in a field. Notice how the yields are quite small.

Once this unique trait was identified, growers spent decades trying to successfully combine C. ruderalis with C. Indica and C. Sativa until they were able to develop strains that were suddenly more resistant to pests as well as not reliant on a photoperiod. Now, growers are able to speed through the growth cycle in just 10 weeks.

And while C. ruderalis has had a short history in the Western eye (and in cannabis culture at large), it has been used as a medicinal herb to treat headaches and pains for centuries because it is one strain with a higher CBD content than a lot of other varieties.

Currently, C. ruderalis is being used as a potential cancer treatment (obviously not to treat cancer itself but the side effects of cancer drugs), anxiety, and epilepsy. It is a fascinating strain with a long, unique history worth spending time reading about.

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