Cannabis Species: Exploring the Different Kinds

There are several different types of cannabis species, and they are called by many different names. If you’re familiar with the basics of cannabis, you have probably heard of three common terms that are used to describe different types of weed; sativas, indicas, and hybrids. These terms refer to the three most well-known species of marijuana, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and cannabis hybrids. Sativas and indicas smell, look and taste different. Hybrids are a mix of sativas and indicas.

Sativas tend to grow taller and thinner, while indicas grow shorter and stockier. Indica bud often has a purplish appearance. On a fundamental level, these differences refer to the easily observable traits of the plant or its phenotype.

Most consumers who have used these two types of cannabis are familiar with the following physical effects:

  • Sativa strains: Believed to have more uplifting and invigorating cerebral effects that go together well with social gatherings, physical activity, and creative projects.
  • Indica strains: Known for their stoney body highs, indicas tend to be physically sedating and perfect to use as a nightcap before bed or relaxing with a movie.
  • Hybrid strains: Since hybrids are a mix of sativa and indica strains, they can provide both mind and body effects. Most strains are hybrid.

Sativa and indica strains are the two original types of cannabis. Hybrid strains are a combination of the two, and could be a 50/50 cross of the two, or can be more dominant in either sativa or indica. When you see a strain that is described as “sativa-dominant hybrid,” it means that the strain has both indica and sativa genetics, but it’s stronger on the sativa side.

The Evolution of Cannabis

 Not only do the effects of various types of weed differ, but so is where they originate from. While indica strains are native to cooler climates in higher mountain elevations, like India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, sativa strains originated in dry, hot, and equatorial climates, like South Africa and Mexico.

Scientists tend to use biological taxonomy to determine how different species of fauna and flora are related to each other. Here is a simple overview:

  • Individual species are grouped into genera (the plural of genus)
  • Genera are placed into various families
  • Families are formed into different orders, and it goes on…

Weed is a genus of the Cannabaceae family. About six million years ago, marijuana diverged from the genus homulus which we now know as hops. So if you’ve ever heard that there is a link between weed and beer, there is indeed.

Scientists have never been able to agree on how the cannabis genus was broken up into species. It’s not known whether it was human interference or environmental changes that are responsible for the main species of marijuana that we have today.

Over the last few million years, the world has experienced immense changes, including dramatic rises and falls in temperature, as well as the melting of the vast ice sheets that once covered the earth. In colder eras, weed was forced to move south and in warmer times, weed spread north as the ice melted.

cannabis species list

Cannabis Sativa

 If you’re looking for a stimulating strain that increases focus and energy, sativa strains are a good choice. They’re known for their uplifting effects and are also great for inspiring creativity. Looking for a little motivation to get through a busy day? Sativa is the go-to strain.

Sativa strains have been the most commonly grown cannabis species for the longest time. First classified by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, it was originally believed to be monotypic (one species), and he chose to call it Cannabis sativa L. – where the L stands for Linnaeus.

Sativa plants grow exceptionally tall – it’s not unusual for them to exceed 15 feet. The plant doesn’t grow thick, and the leaves are narrow and long. They take much longer to flower when compared to their indica counterparts and aren’t affected by changes in light as much. One advantage they have over indica plants is that they tend to have a shorter vegetative period.

Contrary to what many people believe, not all cannabis makes you stoned and lazy. Sure, some do, but not all. Sativa strains are not that kind of weed. Sativa cannabis is mentally stimulating, offering more of an “uplifted” effect than anything else. Sativas are great to use in social situations and make the best “wake and bake” strains, for those who like to smoke pot in the morning.

The most popular sativa strains include Durban Poison, Sour Diesel, Strawberry Cough, and Green Crack.

Cannabis Indica

Indica strains are well-known for their sedating effects. Think of the stereotypical image of stoner zoned out on the couch, and this will give you a good idea of how indica strains will affect you. Indicas are great for those who are looking to relax after a long, stressful day. Typically, indica strains give more of a body high than a cerebral one, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t make you high, because it certainly does.

You will definitely experience some kind of a head high, but it’s likely to be more of a relaxed, dreamy high that will leave you comfortably locked on the couch rather than wanting to keep busy, like with a sativa strain.

This second type of cannabis was identified by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, and he classified it as Cannabis indica Lam. He based his description on plants collected in India. He was of the opinion that Indica strains had poorer fiber quality than sativas, but he did say that it was a more potent way of getting inebriated.

Indica plants are very different from sativas. They are stockier and shorter, rarely growing taller than 6 feet. These plants are more prone to mold in humid conditions due to the dense foliage. The leaves are robust and round.

Since indica plants are more sedative than sativa plants, they are known for providing deep feelings of relaxation. In the medical world, this type of cannabis is used for calming anxiety, treating insomnia, and muscle relaxation.

Some of the most popular indica strains are Master Kush, Hinder Kush, Northern Lights, and Grand Daddy Purple.

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Cannabis Hybrid

Hybrid strains are well-known for offering the best of both worlds. Many strains that you are likely to come across are hybrids – a crossbreed of both indica and sativa strains. In fact, because of the extent to which cannabis has been bred, most strains are typically a hybrid variety.

Usually, hybrids take on qualities of both sativa and indica strains, producing more of a balance, rather than a straight head or body high. As we’ve already stated, you will often find that hybrid strains are described as being either sativa-dominant or indica-dominant.

Popular hybrid strains include Blue Dream, Lemon Kush, Skywalker, and Super Silver Haze.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis Species

 Most cannabis users have a preference for one type of weed over another. There are some people who will smoke sativa all day, and there are others that only smoke indica after they have had a long day so that they can wind down and relax. If you’re wondering what type of weed is best for you, it all comes down to what you are looking for.

Do you want exhilarating mental stimulation? Are you looking to tap into your creative side? Or want some motivation to get through your daily to-do-list? Sativa strains or sativa-dominant hybrid strains are your best bet. But if you’re looking to relax after a long and stressful day, you’re better off using an indica strain.

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