When weed lovers debate the perfect balance of cannabis strains in their ideal marijuana varieties, they're usually talking about the relative percentages of Indica and Sativa.
But, believe it or not, there's actually a third strain which can play an important part in creating a prize-winning variety. It's called Cannabis Ruderalis, and as well as being an important component in many of the world's best crossbred weed varieties, it also has a lot going for it in its own right.
While in the past some have dismissed Ruderalis as just an ugly offshoot of the humble hemp plant which was superseded by more potent, refined cannabis strains many, many years ago, we're enthusiastic cheerleaders for Indica and Sativa's resilient, interesting cousin
So here's our lowdown on the cannabis strain smarter smokers are talking about.
What is a Ruderalis strain?
Ruderalis is a naturally occurring cannabis strain with a high resistance to cold weather, mould, disease, and insect pests. A highly robust and adaptable plant, it can grow in conditions, terrains, and climates which would be unsuitable for cultivating Indica or Sativa.
Owing to its hardy characteristics, cannabis breeders often combine Ruderalis with Indica and/or Sativa strains in order to equip the marijuana variety they are developing with some or all of these traits. Attributes which breeders hope to encourage in their weed varieties by adding Ruderalis include autoflowering capabilities, tolerance to colder climates, and higher CBD content.
Thought to be native to Central Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe, the Ruderalis strain was originally categorised by botanists who used the term to identify species of hemp which had adapted to the somewhat harsh climates of these regions. It is generally accepted to be one of the original strains of cannabis, otherwise known as 'landrace species'.
Properties of the Ruderalis
Looking at the Ruderalis cannabis strain in more detail, if you decide to grow a crop of your own, expect your plants to have the following properties:
In addition to its ability to flourish in the cooler climates of the Northern Hemisphere, Ruderalis has a rapid growth cycle. It is possible for Ruderalis plants to be ready for harvesting around ten weeks after planting.
Its flowering cycle is triggered by the maturity of the plant itself rather than being dependent on environmental factors as is the case for strains containing only Indica and/or Sativa genes. This is the basis of the 'autoflowering' characteristic which cannabis breeders often seek to incorporate into their crossbreeds by including Ruderalis in the genetic mix.
While on the small side, and Ruderalis buds have strong, supportive stems. This contributes to the overall robust nature of the plant, and creates a solid foundation for more generous buds when mixed with other strains.
The Ruderalis plant has fewer leaves than Indica or Sativa. Each leaf has just five blades, the outside two being much shorter than the middle three. Ruderalis leaves are therefore less dense than those of the Indica or Sativa plant, meaning that yields will in turn be less abundant. However, in crossbred varieties this will be offset by the genetic influence of the other cannabis strains which are included in the mix.
So what's it like to actually smoke Ruderalis weed? Well, don't expect the mind-blowing high of the stronger Indica and Sativa strains. Instead, Ruderalis weed has a more nuanced, subtle character which can be broken down as follows:
Owing to its high CBD content and comparatively low levels of THC, Ruderalis weed offers a less overpowering high than Indica or Sativa. Overall a rather gentle experience, it will produce a calming effect and enhance concentration. Some smokers have suggested that Ruderalis may even offset feelings of anxiety, although it is of course no substitute for medically prescribed pharmaceuticals.
While Ruderalis has its merits as a pure strain, it is probably more widely appreciated as a component of blended crossbred weed varieties which also include Indica and Sativa strains. As well as adding practical benefits such as hardiness and autoflowering capabilities, the presence of Ruderalis in a crossbreed mix can be used to temper the more potent effects of other strains.
This could mean, for example, that a combination of Indica and Sativa which would otherwise induce unpleasant feelings of paranoia or lethargy will instead create a sense of euphoria and calm.
Taste and Smell
In its naturally occurring form, Ruderalis has a markedly lower content of terpenoids than either Indica or Sativa. As it is terpenoids that give weed its fragrant, flavoursome qualities, Ruderalis tends to be somewhat lacking in the smell and taste department.
If you're smoking a pure Ruderalis variety, expect a neutral taste and flavour. So not unpleasant but equally nothing which will have you reaching for you dictionary to pick out some choice culinary superlatives. However, if you value the mild high of Ruderalis but don't want to miss out on flavour and aroma, there's nothing to stop you mixing in an alternative smokable leaf such as Damiana or Marshmallow.
In crossbred marijuana varieties, Ruderalis provides the ideal base for cannabis breeders who like to experiment with the taste and smell possibilities they can create by combining different Indica and Sativa breeds.
As an element in a crossbred weed variety, the benefits of Ruderalis are clear. Weed breeding experts have been using it to great effect for a while now, so its no exaggeration to say that this hardy, unassuming strain has become something of a magic secret ingredient for breeders looking to add some subtlety and finesse to their blends.
However, there's also a case for arguing that Ruderalis has a tonne of potential to be used, if not exclusively, then at least as the dominant strain in a crossbreed alongside Indica and Sativa genes.
When you think about it, we're living in an era in which the cannabis plant's health benefits are gaining more recognition every day as more and more CBD products find their way onto the shelves of mainstream shops. Meanwhile, the voice in favour of ending cannabis prohibition grows ever louder, achieving frequent breakthroughs across the world as more and more governments take steps to relax legislation.
The modest yet compelling attributes of this humble plant and the milder, CBD-rich varieties it can be used to develop seem perfectly attuned to all of this. So it could soon be time for Ruderalis to take the spotlight. Or if that's over stretching the case just a little, it at least deserves to take its place on the stage.