The return of Ruderalis

Deep in the North American woods lurks a recent addition to the marijuana gene pool: Ruderalis hybrids! The forests and fields are coming alive with resinated plants, blasting their way to maturity under the intense light of the summer sun, long before the buzzing of choppers or moldy autumn weather.
Until recently, Ruderalis had been almost unanimously given a bad name by cultivators and breeders alike. Early Dutch seed pioneers like Super Sativa Seed Club voiced their concerns about Ruderalis early in the homegrown revolution. This was all with understandable reason, as pure Ruderalis varieties are almost completely devoid of THC and come with a host of other problems for the grower or breeder.

Breeding programs between Ruderalis and drug type strains can and have produced plants of notable quality. The aim of this article is to shine some light on this recent advance in marijuana breeding and pave the way to what could be the future of outdoor marijuana cultivation for many areas of the world.

What is Ruderalis?

Cannabis Ruderalis is a subspecies of Cannabis Sativa. The term was originally used in the former Soviet Union to describe the varieties of hemp that had escaped cultivation and adapted to the surrounding region.

Similar 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 midwest, though populations occur sporadically throughout the United States and Canada. Without the human hand aiding in selection, these plants have lost many of the traits they were originally selected for, and have acclimatized to their locale.

Though they contain little THC, these plants hold large potential for use in breeding, both in hemp and marijuana applications. Early flowering and resistance to locally significant insect and disease pressures are but a few of the important traits present in these feral populations.

Thankfully, despite years of US government sponsored eradication programs, these wild plants still remain in bountiful abundance.

Early Bud: this one will be ready while other buds are not.Early Bud: this one will be ready while other buds are not.Early efforts

The first documented experiments in crossing drug strain varieties with their Ruderalis cousins were performed by Ernest Small of Agriculture Canada in Ontario during the 1970’s, for the aiding in the purposes of taxonomic classification. Crosses between these strains usually produced offspring of intermediate THC levels, with a few that leaned more towards the high THC end of the spectrum. It was concluded during this research that hybrids between drug and non-drug (both ruderal and hemp cultivars were tested) generally produced progeny of intermediate potency.1

Perhaps the most known efforts to incorporate Ruderalis traits into drug hybrids are those of Nevil, proprietor of the original Seed Bank, and the person largely responsible for the original dispersion of many of today’s drug varieties.

During the 1980’s, Nevil experimented with crossing Ruderalis strains to plants such as Mexican, Skunk#1 and several Indicas, in hopes of combining the early flowering of the Ruderalis with the potency and flavor of the others.

Although some of Neville’s crosses matured much earlier than previous marijuana strains, they tended to be low in potency, unstable in terms of maturity, and often sported buds that were leafy with shrunken calyxes.

Early Purple: sweet Rudy in the mix.Early Purple: sweet Rudy in the mix.BC’s Mighty Mite

About this time, on British Columbia’s Gulf islands, an outdoor grower was noticing that his October finishing strain always threw out a few plants that finished much earlier ? by late July or early August. After several years of selections for this early flowering trait, the Mighty Mite strain was born.2 Mighty Mite effectively incorporated the auto-flowering trait, while retaining the habit and potency of its drug cultivar heritage.

For those in the know, Mighty Mite quickly became a popular outdoor strain for filling the traditional late summer drought in BC’s pot market before the market was flooded with regular seasonal outdoor bud. Slowly, over the years, these genetics have spread further amongst underground pot growers and been used most successfully in hybridizations with more potent strains.

Aside from getting crops in before cops and other thieves can plunder them, these early plants have allowed growers to produce plants with much more commercial appeal than traditional Northern latitude outdoor marijuana.

Warm, dry summer weather with high light values allow buds to finish bright green and rock hard, making for better bag appeal. It is impossible to tell whether the many auto-flowering strains floating around all originated in the Mighty Mite family or are a result of many similar incidents, but it is certainly the most proven of all the auto-flowering strains. The fact that Mighty Mite is an inbred line and relatively true breeding for its auto-flowering trait would make it seem likely to have been a large contributor.

DJ Short has recently speculated that Ruderalis introductions into the drug cannabis gene pool likely came from repeated selections for early flowering traits from Indica based lines rather than actually being imported from Russia or surrounding countries (CC#39, Breeding Tips). Both of these scenarios are quite possible. General consensus is that all drug, hemp and feral strains of cannabis originated from the same source gene pool, therefore, Indica varieties would also have these auto-flower genes present somewhere in their genetic makeup.

Get those buds in before choppers and thieves come looking!Get those buds in before choppers and thieves come looking!Early flowering explored

The marijuana strains most of us have been familiar with begin flowering once the night period reaches the individual plant’s critical night length. This critical length varies depending on where the strain originated. Generally, there is a critical period of darkness required to begin flowering, and a second slightly longer critical dark requirement for it to ripen completely.

Many Indica varieties begin to flower when the day length drops to about 13 1/2-14 hours, while Sativas will often not begin to flower until less than a 12 hour day length is achieved.

In comparison, many of today’s Ruderalis/drug strain hybrids flower automatically when they reach a given maturity, regardless of photoperiod. Even under lights on 18 hours a day, they completely mature from seed to bud in less than 90 days.

I’ve seen test plants from Mighty Mite hybrid lines that were started outdoors in early March, and had completely finished by late July. This could indicate that crossing auto-flowering plants to those that are photoperiod determinant lengthens a genetically predetermined period required before non-photoperiod dependent floral onset.

A second scenario is that within the ruderal strains that have been introduced to the drug gene pool there also exists genetic information of photoperiod adaptation to north latitudes.

Many of these Ruderalis/drug hybrids are also known for being very sensitive to other environmental factors. Things such as cloning, letting plants go too dry or getting pot bound can easily send them into heavy flowering.

The big unknown that still remains in these new lines of marijuana is what is actually causing the flowering on a biological level? Is there an internal clock, a genetically predetermined number of cell divisions that must take place before the plant begins to put up buds?

Another possibility is that once night-induced flowering hormone levels accumulate to certain levels within the plant it will begin to flower.

If the flowering is not dependent on having a dark period, these new cultivars could prove useful in backyard city growing situations, where streetlights and other forms of light pollution often prevent proper maturation of photoperiod dependent strains.

Rudy tooty, so fruity!Rudy tooty, so fruity!Problems and pitfalls

As these genetics further penetrate the drug cannabis gene pool they have potential to cause both harm and good.

Imagine getting mothers up and going for your next big crop and finding that at 60 days they all begin to go into full flower. A costly inconvenience at the least!

However, the potential for great advances is also there for the taking. How about auto-flowering Haze strains that ripen in the middle of summer, in areas where previously even the earliest Indicas would not ripen in time? Commercial growers could pull two crops per summer without ever having to worry about shading!

Breeding climate

One of the largest problems associated with breeding outdoor varieties for northern latitude areas like Canada or Holland is that the climate puts no pressure on plants to produce high psychoactivity. In fact it selects for the opposite.

So long as the breeder is selecting for high potency on a multi-parent level, potency can be upheld. However, if this same breeding program were undertaken in an environment that naturally selects for high THC plants (like highland Colombia or Thailand) the resulting average desirable cannabinoid levels would be much higher.

There is likely a threshold effect on the potential of any given strain as related to the environment it is being selected in. By incorporating auto-flower genes into the north latitude outdoor marijuana gene pool, plants would be finishing under more direct sunlight and warmer weather. This environment is much more conducive to high THC levels, thereby raising the threshold level for the particular strain.

Mighty cola in the morning sun.Mighty cola in the morning sun.Ruderalis and hemp

It is very likely that Ruderalis varieties have already made for an important advance in hemp cultivars. The variety FIN314 was developed from genetic material originating in Russia and seems to have the same auto-flowering trait noted in Mighty Mite and other hybrids.

FIN314 seeds that accidentally germinated in a Quebec farmer’s field in early April were found in full flower by early June.3 Along with adding the possibility of twin crops in a season, this allows the oilseed variety to finish short enough to be easily harvested by current machinery, which clogs when fed the standard taller hemp varieties.

The genetic history of the parents of FIN 314 is unknown, other than that they were acquired from a germplasm collection from Russia. However, it is believed that at least one of the parents was a Ruderalis accession.4 If the widespread adoption of FIN314 by hemp farmers is any indication of the future of Ruderalis/drug hybrids with pot growers, there will be a mass dispersal in the coming years.

Buyer beware

There are still many commercially offered Ruderalis hybrid strains that are very low quality and should barely be classed as drug varieties. At the same time, the finest Canadian outdoor pot to have crossed my path so far was from Mighty Mite derived lines that were harvested in July and August.

The future seems clear for Ruderalis/marijuana hybrids. As many governments ease up on antiquated cannabis laws, more and more people will take up growing. A couple of auto-flowers on the back deck will likely fit the lifestyle of many more folks than would an indoor grow room.

Demand for stabilized, auto-flowering hybrids of high drug value, in combination with saner drug laws, will pressure marijuana breeders to move forward on bringing these to fruition.

Until then, the ability to have marijuana crops maturing at any time of the growing season should wreak havoc on CAMP style police tactics that have been accustomed to only searching for plants one or two months of the year. This, if for no other reason, seems ample enough to plant some auto-flowerers today!Mighty cola in the morning sun.

References

1 Small, Ernest. 1979. The Species Problem in Cannabis Science & Semantics. Volume 1: Science. Corpus Information Services Limited. In cooperation with Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Government Publishing Center. pp.121-127
2 Poole, MIchael. Romancing Mary Jane: A Year in the Life of a Failed Marijuana Grower. Greystone Books.
3 Przytyk, Sasha. Undated article. FIN 314 in Canada, Gen-X research Inc. Regina, Sask.
4 Callaway, JC, and TT Laakonen. Undated article. Cultivation of Oilseed Varieties in Finland. Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Kuopio, Finland.

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  353. Anonymous on

    Here in Sweden bags of hemp seeds are sold in the pet food section of supermarkets as bird food – apparently some types of wild birds like hemp seeds. You can buy a 1 kilo bag of “bird seed” for the equivalent of about 3 US dollars. Every spring I buy a bag and walk around planting seeds in bushes and public parks and the like. Some of the seeds don’t grow, probably due to poor soil quality, but most of them do. I do it partially for fun and partially as a form of activism – quite a few times some of the seeds I’ve planted in public places have grown into large enough plants that I’ve contacted the media anonymously and managed to get articles in the paper about the “hash plant growing in central Malmö” (“hash plants” are what the media/ignorant people call cannabis here, often intentionally because ‘hash’ has more negative connotations than more neutral words like cannabis and marijuana).

  354. Anony mouse on

    While it may seem like a good idea to throw seeds everywhere we need to first see what it would do to the local plant life. while I enjoy a good smoke it isn’t all about me and like kudzu in the south we don’t want to start “weeding out” the local plant life for a political cause.

    I don’t know much about this strain but it seems to me that we should study its impact on local plant life before we start throwing it everywhere. while it might be humorous and politically active to do it I’d hate to F up the bio situation in my area to the point where we are choking out other important plants.

    I am not saying don’t do it I am saying be responsible, think about it research it, maybe it already has been researched and shown to be benign, don’t know. But it would kind of suck worse case scenario we choked out local plants that animals and people feed off and cause a bad situation.

    I grew up in Georgia and we used kudzu for soil erosion and to put barriers around fields as wind breaks. Well 50 some yrs later it has taken over to the point it is killing entire areas of forest by choking everything out.

    If you drive down I 75 you can see the harm it has caused. Yes I know this is not a vine but all actions have consequences. Make sure we do the right thing first.

  355. Tony Montana on

    Thats a good idea, never thrught of that. Being a cannabis broker I get some stray seeds and next time will put them in some sunny areas where they can hopely grow and flourish.

  356. Anonymous on

    They screwed up my order, I paid extra money for discreet guaranteed shipping and Customs opened the package and took the seeds, and send me a letter that wasn’t very legible. It took them 3 weeks after the incident for them to finally ship another package with a tracking number and it looks like it’s still being held at customs, we’ll see in the coming days. It’s a good thing I ordered an auto-flowering strain.

  357. Anonymous on

    I’ve been telling people to do this for 25+ years, they’re too lazy.

  358. LP Haze on

    According to the US Govt MJ seeds are allready illegal.

  359. LP Haze on

    Try dopeseeds.com and click on their autoflowering catagory. They have auto seeds from numerous seed banks.

  360. LP Haze on

    Type “autoflowering marijuana seeds” into Google and you will get several sites (seed banks) who carry the seeds. They are not free and they usually will produce much less bud than normal plants.

  361. Anonymous on

    The Attitude Seed Bank

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  364. Anonymous on

    Though some sound arguments are made here for hybridizing high-potency strains with ruderalis, the failure to mention the one real trait that growers desire most, weight, is glaring.

    In the end, most of the hybridization of ruderalis plants is done purely for profit. This path inevitably leads to the grower making more money whilst the end users get a virtually guaranteed inferior strain.

    Again, this is not to bash the good points of this article, specifically the topics of auto-flowering and the midwest growing season stand out, but still…

    So, the next time your dealer tries to pimp some train wreck, keep this in mind. We call that schwill Brain Wreck, not because it’s so intoxicating, but because it gives you a massive freaking headache.

  365. danno on

    yeah i don’t think i’ll take the time to make sure no outdoor gardens are within three miles, maybe 50′, if someone’s crop gets dusted i guess they shouldn’t have been growing outside lol.

  366. Anonymous on

    Don’t plant the seeds outside unless you are certain there are not other weed plants within 3 miles of the area you want to grow. Otherwise, you could potentially ruin the harvest of another fellow grower and ruin your harvest/planted seeds as well.

  367. CLEVE on

    It’s funny how you think if it was growing wild everywhere it would cause the authorities some sort of trouble with enforcing it… I for one would LOVE to see weed growing along ditches, in highway medians, rooftop gardens…

    News Flash: IT USED TO BE GROWING WILD ACROSS THE ENTIRE USA. You couldn’t go somewhere without seeing it in a roadside ditch. Then the “war on drugs” started and the ever so reliable US government sent the full force of the national guard on a mission to BURN IT ALL with FLAMETHROWERS.

    So, despite how fantastic your idea sounds… it would have no affect.

  368. Tomato 420 on

    sometime his winter I’m going to get some autoflowering seeds, grow a batch for seed and spread them everywhere, give them away, plant the at the courthouse, library, anywhere where there is a sprinkler system, near the river, at the mall, in the parks, everywhere.

    within the next few years I’ll have a nice rv and I’ll travel around and do it everywhere else.

    OVERGROW THE GOVERNMENT!

  369. Anonymous on

    You can sometimes find seeds in your green when you buy it. Get like a 1/2 ounce and you could have a good chance of getting some seeds.

  370. Joshua on

    It seems like a great idea. But, it would seem like also a good means for the US and other nations to make seeds illegal.

    I don’t know, its just my 2 cents.

  371. Anonymous on

    Lmao! that is such a great idea lol! first time ive herd of something like that, but yeah i know what your saying if you happen to breed plants or produce a male in your crop then put it in a seperate area in your house or green house [wear overals to avoid trace pollen when you go back to your budding crop] with a couple of females, take the seeds when there ready, store in a cool dry place until march and scatter a couple of seeds into each of your neighbours gardens, town centres and fields etc… and keep doing that.

    i live in a densly populated city of which a gd 50%+ smokes it if everyone did that it would cover my city then if it caught on to other citys eventual the country would be loaded with budd just like nettles.

    eventually… authorities constantly dig them up only to find that next year theres more or plants that they’ve missed, the country [world if your very ambitious] will be covered in it so they’d have to decriminalize weed because it will be to bountiful

  372. Ranner on

    How do I get ahold of free seeds?I’m in a small town and do not have access to a seed supply. Who do I talk to or at least where can I buy from?

  373. Anonymous on

    This should be a call to all smokers to SPREAD YOUR SEED !!! . Anywhere, anytime you have extra seeds don’t trash them. It’s your smokers duty to deposit those seeds in a place they have the best chance of growing into Ruderals. And if you are a seed provider, you should empty your old seeds in soil, not the trash. Or, send them out free to your customers to plant in their city. Our Goal is: to have every Country, state, City, on the Globe growing wild, uncontrollable ruderalis until the authorities can’t fight the battle anymore. Why not let mother nature win the battle for us. PLANT YOUR SEEDS EVERYWHERE! and Provide free “generic” rederalis seeds for spreading with every order. We can overwhelm them if bud is growing in the public, on every block, in every city. SPREAD YOUR SEEDS!!!

    PASS IT ON!!

    Mr. Miami