Cannabis Ruderalis

Cannabis Ruderalis (also known as ruderal hemp) belongs to the hemp family (Cannabaceae). “Ruderal” comes from the Latin “rudus,” which means something like “lump, chunk” but also stands for “wild” and refers to its weed-like nature and its spread in terms of location and species. 

The plant, often referred to as Russian hemp, is a subspecies (Cannabis sativa ruderalis) of Cannabis Sativa or is a species of its own, depending on the school of thought; the Cannabis ruderalis, from the genus of hemp plants (Cannabis). The article treats this plant as a separate subspecies.

Cannabis Species

Although countless different cannabis varieties exist worldwide, which differ in their characteristics in terms of growth habits, taste, yield, and effect, they all belong to the Cannabaceae family. You can assign it to one of the three main genera:

These varieties have origins in different climate zones; differences in appearance, flowering system, growth, habitat, and taste, and one can observe the effect.

Physical appearance

The ruderal hemp is the smallest of all three types of hemp. Some sources say its size ranges from 30 to 60 cm.[1] Others indicate a growth height of one and, in exceptional cases, even up to two meters.[2]  There is a combination of these properties so that you can make a distinction between the two other types in terms of characteristics:

  • upright growing
  • no or hardly any branches at the base
  • tiny and relatively short leaves
  • the division into seven or fewer leaflets
  • Closing fruits are small and brown.
  • Inflorescences are small and greenish with brown mottling
  • when the fruit ripens, the fruits drop gradually[2][3]

Ingredients and systematics

Cannabis Ruderalis is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)[4] and cannabidiol (CBD) compared to other types of cannabis.

The main feature of ruderal hemp, and at the same time the main difference from the other two types of cannabis, is its flowering cycle, which is not (like Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica) induced by photoperiodism (growth and development depend on the length of the day). Cannabis Ruderalis is autoflowering[4], which means it starts flowering after chronological maturation, usually after 21 to 30 days, regardless of the light cycle. In this context, breeders speak of “auto-flowering” (= automatically flowering). After about seven weeks, the ripening of the seeds and flowers is complete.[5]

The plant also tolerates very harsh and cold climatic conditions and is therefore valued by growers for its robustness.

Effect and Use

Because ruderal hemp generally has such a low concentration of both THC and CBD, it is not, in its pure form, grown for recreational or medicinal use. Until recently, the use of ruderal hemp was worthless due to the small number of active ingredients. It was therefore not used by the market for a long time.

However, breeders are now taking advantage of the genetic factor, the aforementioned chronological maturation of Cannabis Ruderalis and its high resilience, and crossing it with highly potent strains of the other two species, C. Sativa and C. Indica. The new varieties created from the crossing, the hybrid cannabis, combine the best properties of the crossed species and sometimes flower automatically after just a few weeks.

It is a significant benefit for many growers, especially those living in colder areas and those who grow hemp outdoors. Planting can begin again immediately after the harvest; the maturity of the flower in this species depends on the growing season and not on seasonal conditions.


While the origin of the Sativa and Indica dominant strains lies in south-central Asia, ruderal hemp was originally only found in south-eastern Russia; the main distribution is in the former USSR and the former Eastern Bloc countries. It was probably imported into Mongolia by the Scythians and spread there.

Nowadays, wild ruderal hemp can be found from the Caucasus to China, mainly on stony sites (=ruderal sites) as well as rubble areas and scree fields. In Canada and the USA, one also encounters wild hemp known as ruderalis; here, one assumes that these are mainly wild Indica and Sativa plants.

Hybrid Cannabis

Breeding new, highly potent strains with unique genetics and the best possible traits are the goal of many cannabis growers. By selectively crossing several types of cannabis, one can bring the best properties together: we speak of so-called hybrids.

Although the three cannabis species Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis belong to different cannabis families, one can all cross them with each other. Medicinal potential, high THC levels, and the ability to thrive in specific growing conditions are just a few of the traits sought.

It means that many strains now share traits from multiple families. As a result, you can find solid and potent hybrids that increase the effect or yields and show the robustness and a lack of susceptibility to disease. The majority of cannabis strains on the market today are hybrids.




[2] Martin Booth: Cannabis: A History. 2005, S. 3, Wuchshöhe

[3] Richard Evans Schultes, William M. Klein, Timothy Plowman, Tom E. Lockwood: Cannabis: an example of taxonomic neglect. In: Botanical Museum Leaflets, Harvard University, Volume 23, Issue 9, 1974, S. 337-367.

[4] D. Gloss: An Overview of Products and Bias in Research. In: Neurotherapeutics: the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics. Band 12, Nummer 4, Oktober 2015, S. 731–734

[5] Peter Stafford: Psychedelics Encyclopedia. Ronin Publishing, 2013, ISBN 978-1-579-51169-2, S. 159.