Cannabis Sativa

Understanding cannabis strains

Cannabis is an annual flowering, wild growing, and dioecious plant. Dioecious simply means cannabis’ reproductive systems come in separate male and female plants.

Indications of cannabis use date as far back as 5,000 years ago, where a ‘smoking cup’ containing burnt hemp seeds was discovered at a Romanian Burial Site. In ancient societies, cannabis was mainly utilised for medicinal and spiritual purposes. In today’s world, cannabis is primarily used for medical and recreational purposes.

Cannabis is believed to have originated in Asia. However, conquest and exploration would eventually spread the plant to different parts of the globe. When planted in different areas of the world and under different circumstances, variations of the cannabis plant began to surface. These variations are referred to as landrace strains.

Cannabis strains are the variety of the crop. Strains refer to the particular variety of the cannabis plant’s flower — For example, Sour Diesel and Northern Lights.

Weed strains are not to be confused with the three major weed groups. These three groups are classified under plant structure and physical appearance. All cannabis strains can be classified in appearance under one of these groups – or in some cases, a hybrid group. These groups are:

  • Sativa;
  • Indica; and
  • Ruderalis.
Cannabis leaves can serve as identifiers of the particular species or strain, whether sativa, indica, or ruderalis. Source

What is Cannabis Sativa?

Cannabis Sativa is one of the subgroups of the cannabis plant. The term ‘sativa’ was introduced in the 18th century to describe different species of the cannabis plant. The term was first used by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish Botanist, to describe hemp plants found in Europe and western Eurasia. This variety of cannabis was cultivated predominantly for fibre and seeds.

For centuries, cannabis consumers have thought that Sativa promotes energy. However, this is a myth that has been debunked. 

Nowadays, cannabis plants are fitted into any cannabis sub-group based on their physical features. The psychotropic effects of cannabis are not linked to their physical appearance, but to their chemical makeup. Sativas are often easily recognisable due to their distinctive physical features. These features include;

  • Tall in stature;
  • Narrow leaves;
  • Longer flowering cycles;
  • Better suited for warm climates with longer seasons.

What are the differences between Sannabis Sativa And Cannabis Indica?

Cannabis Indica, just like Cannabis Sativa, is a sub-group of the cannabis specie. Both sub-groups of the same plant, Cannabis Indica and Sativa have a number of differences which serve as identifiers separating them from one another. These differences are:

  • Physical differencesThe most recognizable difference between Indica and Sativa strains are their physical appearance. Indica plants are shorter in stature with broad leaves. Sativa plants, on the other hand, are tall in stature with narrow leaves. The leaves of the Indica are notably deeper than those of the Sativa.
Physical differences between Sativa and Indica plants. Source
  • Flowering cycles
    The flowering cycle is the stage in a cannabis plant’s life where it’ll produce cannabis flowers. The cannabis flower is consumed by inhalation – smoking or vaping – and can be used when preparing edibles.The Sativa sub-group tends to have longer flowering cycles in comparison to that of the Indica.
  • Myrcene percentage
    Myrcene is a terpene found in plants such as mangoes, basil, and of course, cannabis. Terpenes are any class of hydrocarbons which occur in plants and animals.If a cannabis plant contains Myrcene in a volume greater than 0.5 percent, it is classified as Indica. If volumes of the terpene are less than one and a half percent, it is Sativa.

What is a ‘Hybrid’ strain?

A hybrid cannabis strain is created by crossbreeding two different varieties of cannabis. Hybrid strains are a man-made attempt at customising cannabis. Hybrid plants come with similar characteristics from their parent plants but often in heightened levels.

Hybrid plants can be created in four major ways;

  • Crossing 2 Sativa strains;
  • Crossing 2 Indica strains;
  • Crossing a Sativa and Indica strain where the Sativa strain is the dominant strain; or
  • Crossing a Sativa and Indica strain where the Indica strain is the dominant strain.

How does Hemp fit into Cannabis Sativa?

Hemp is a non-psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant. Unlike marijuana, hemp offers no euphoric effect and elation when consumed. Hemp is primarily harvested for fibres, seeds and its therapeutic cannabinoid, Cannabidiol – CBD.

According to Carl Linnaeus’s classification of the cannabis plant, hemp is cannabis sativa. But the classification and grouping of cannabis species has evolved since the time of Linnaeus. Today, any part of the cannabis plant containing less than 0.3% of Tetrahydrocannabinol – THC – is referred to as hemp.


There are three major sub-groups of cannabis plants classified per physical appearance. One of these sub-groups is Cannabis Sativa, which can be identified by its tall stature and narrow leaves. Other sub-groups include Indica and the less popular ruderalis. Cannabis strains are products of the subgroups, and can be a mixture of them, commonly referred to as hybrid strains.

Published by Neil

Neil believes Cannabis has medical benefits and should be prescribed by a Doctor. This site aims to provide accurate information on the science and legality of Cannabis so you can make informed decisions.

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