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Cannabis ruderalis is a low-THC species of Cannabis which is native to Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. Many scholars accept Cannabis ruderalis as its own species due to its unique traits and phenotypes which distinguish it from Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa; however, it is widely debated as to whether or not ruderalis is a sub-species of Cannabis sativa.
Cannabis ruderalis was first described by Russian botanist D. E. Janischewsky in 1924. The term ruderalis is derived from the Latin rūdera, which is the plural form of rūdus, a Latin word meaning rubble, lump, or rough piece of bronze. A ruderal species refers to any plant that is the first to colonize land after a disturbance removing competition.
It is widely disputed as to whether C. ruderalis is its own species, or rather the subspecies C. sativa. C. ruderalis as classified in 1924 by D. E. Janischewsky, noting the visible differences in seed, shape and size from previously classified Cannabis sativa. It is possible that ruderalis might represent feral types of cannabis which occupy regions farther north in latitude. Chemotaxanomic analysis reveals that C. ruderalis is shown to have similar average THC + CBD levels to the feral biotype of C. sativa. However, these numbers are not that different from average THC + CBD levels the hemp biotype of C. sativa. The study conducted by Karl W. Hillig and Paul G. Mahlberg does not support evidence that C. ruderalis is its own species, because there is no significant difference found between Central-European and Asian ruderal accessions. This supports the longstanding theory proposed by Vavilov that C. ruderalis is, in fact, a sub-species of C. sativa. Many other scientists, however, do accept C. ruderalis as its own species, due to its unique environment, as well as its specific traits and phenotypes.
Cannabis ruderalis is smaller than other species of Cannabis. C. ruderalis rarely grows over two feet in height. Plants have “thin, slightly fibrous stems” with little branching. Foliage is typically open with large leaves, C. ruderalis reaches maturity much quicker than other species of Cannabis, typically in a five to seven week period from seed.
Unlike other species of cannabis, Cannabis ruderalis enters the flowering stage based on the maturity of the plant, rather than its light cycle. With C. sativa and C. indica varieties, it is possible to keep the plant in the vegetative state indefinitely by maintaining a long daylight cycle. C. ruderalis, however, will enter the flowering stage regardless of daily light duration. Cannabis geneticists today refer to this feature as “auto-flowering“. 
Origin and range
Cannabis ruderalis was first scientifically identified in 1924 in southern Siberia, although it also grows wild in other areas of Russia. The Russian botanist, Janischewski, was studying wild Cannabis in the Volga River system and realized he had come upon a third species. C. ruderalis is a hardier variety grown in the northern Himalayas and southern states of the former Soviet Union, characterized by a more sparse, “weedy” growth.
Similar C. ruderalis populations can be found in most of the areas where hemp cultivation was once prevalent. The most notable region in North America is the midwestern United States, though populations occur sporadically throughout the United States and Canada. Large wild C. ruderalis populations are also found in central and eastern Europe, most of them in Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia and adjacent countries. Without human selection, these plants have lost many of the traits they were originally selected for, and have acclimated to their environment.
Cannabis ruderalis has a lower THC content than either C. sativa or C. indica, so it is rarely grown for recreational use and the shorter stature of C. ruderalis limits its application for hemp production. Cannabis ruderalis strains are high in the cannabіnoid cannabidiol (CBD), so they are grown by some medical marijuana users.
However, C. ruderalis‘ early, plant-age triggered “autoflowering” characteristic (which offers some agricultural advantages over the photoperiodic flowering varieties) as well as its reputed resistance to insect and disease pressures makes it attractive to plant breeders. C. indica strains are frequently cross-bred with C. ruderalis to produce autoflowering plants with high THC content, improved hardiness and reduced height. One strain, identified in 1960, is Cannabis x intersita Sojak which is a cross between C. sativa and C. ruderalis. Attempts to produce a Cannabis strain with a shorter growing season are another application of cultivating C. ruderalis. C. ruderalis when crossed with sativa and indica strains produces a plant which flowers automatically and is fully mature in 10 weeks.
Use in auto-flowering cannabis strains
Because C. ruderalis transitions from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage with age, as opposed to the light cycle required with photoperiod strains, it is bred with other household sativa and indica strains of cannabis to create “Auto-flowering cannabis strains”. These strains are favorable for cultivaters because they exhibit the hardiness of ruderalis plants while still maintaining the medicinal effects of sativa and indica strains. The Auto-flowering trait is extremely beneficial because it allows for multiple harvests in one outdoor growing season without the use of light deprivation techniques necessary for multiple harvest of photo-period strains. As a result of ruderalis genetics, auto-flowering plants typically have much higher CBD levels than photo-period cannabis.
Cannabis ruderalis is traditionally used in Russian and Mongolian folk medicine, especially for uses in treating depression. Because C. ruderalis is among the lowest THC producing biotypes of Cannabis, C. ruderalis is rarely used for recreational purposes.
In modern use, C. ruderalis has been crossed with Bedrocan strains to produce the strain Bediol for patients with medical prescriptions. C. sativa and C. indica strains bred with ruderalis plants typically exhibit the “autoflowering” phenotype exhibited by the C. ruderalis lineage, meaning that they flower when the plant reaches a certain maturity (usually ten weeks from seed) as opposed to flowering in accordance with the daily light schedules. In addition to this, due to the typically higher concentration of cannabidiol (CBD), ruderalis plants are valuable for patients looking to treat anxiety or epilepsy. C. ruderalis is also being used as a form of cancer treatment as well as sclerosis and loss of appetite.
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