CANNABIS SATIVA L. is a species from the plant family Cannabaceae. Cannabis sativa L. (L. is for Linnaeus) is a dioecious plant, which means it has male and female sexual organs on separate plants. Though Cannabis sativa L. is dioecious, some monoecious (both sex organs on one plant) examples can be found. An example would be South East Asian varieties such as Thai.
Cannabis sativa L. is the most prevalent species of cannabis and can be found throughout the world. Some of the most famous varieties come from Brazil, Colombia, India, Mexico, South East Asia, and Africa. Typically sativa varieties grow tall with good to poor branching and appear to be narrow leafed. Cultivated sativa varieties were either historically grown for fiber (cordage) or intoxicant properties (drug type). Historically, cultivated cannabis sativa varieties are typically better types because selection had been performed over generations. A result of field selection has led to increased resin production which is something that wild or feral cannabis populations typically lack.
Now for those who would love to grow a sativa either pure such as a landrace or old farmed line or maybe a pure hybrid sativa should know a few sativa grow tips before you get started. The first thing that comes to mind is that sativas are typically equatorial lines and are accustomed to light regimens that are more conducive to 12/12 due to their proximity to the equator. Some sativa varieties will not mature from seed like modern hybrids but their maturity will be affected by predetermined genetic code rather than photosensitive manipulation. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re sprouting seeds that are sativas, you should optimally give them around 60 to 90 days to grow from seed to allow sufficient growth before inducing flower. In my experience this allows for larger plants that tend to be more predictable and produce larger flowers that will mature in a timely manner.
Once your selected sativa variety is induced to flower either under lights indoors/greenhouse or outdoors, having sufficient space to allow ample root growth is essential. Now a good organic soil mix is preferred and one that contains lower amounts of nitrogen is important so that sensitive vegetative growth is not inhibited. Sometimes all that is needed is a good balanced organic soil and water, with the addition of occasional tea if required.
Some training can help to improve yields once your sativa variety is growing, but training is best done before flowering has been induced either from climatic seasonal change or a supplemental light regimen. In my experience, higher yields can be achieved from sativas if training is kept to only the vegetative stage and is stopped once flowering is induced. Bending sativas is the least intrusive training method which allows plant growth regulators called auxins to be distributed throughout the growing plant and not just to its floral tips. Another method which is employed by skilled and experienced cultivators of sativas is by topping or pinching. This method allows the cultivator to regulate size of plants and encourages lateral and bushy growth if performed correctly. This method is the most intrusive method of training and can severely damage your growing sativa which can lead to poor yields and delay maturation of floral sativa clusters.
At this point flowering of your sativa variety depends on what strain you selected to grow. Most pure hybrid sativas enjoy the hybrid vigor effect and even though the hybrid comprises of landraces or heirloom varieties finishing time is usually quicker than a non-hybridized variety. Pure sativas such as some Mexican varieties are renowned for fast maturation and can finish outdoors as early as September to October in the Northern Hemisphere. Other sativa varieties like Thais and Colombians are notoriously long flowering lines and may take up to 20 weeks or more to finish flowering if at all. Some of these varieties may have floral clusters that mature differently and at different times even on the same plant. In some cases due to genetic markers some equatorial sativas may never completely mature.
I can say for the most part inspecting glandular trichomes for maturity of flowers is the best indication that your sativa variety is ready to be harvested. I like to wait an additional week or two before harvesting, due to the extreme length of flowering some of these varieties require. To ensure the highest amount of active cannabinoids, trichome heads should be fully developed and clear at a minimum. When trichome heads become cloudy this is a degradation of THC and some trichomes become amber as well. It should be noted that not all cannabis varieties will have a noticeable change in resin head color – an example would be some varieties of Thai.
Once you have decided when to harvest your plant, drying and curing are just as important if not more important than the last few months of growing. Generally you want your sativas to dry as slowly as possible, this helps the flavor of the dried flowers and slows the oxidation of cannabinoids and other plant chemicals. In my experience sativa hybrids tend to benefit largely from a good cure with noticeable differences from cured flowers after two weeks, one month, three months and six months of jar curing. I attribute this to the increased resin production of these hybrids. Some pure sativas are better consumed quickly before cannabinoid degradation occurs. These varieties have very little observable resin and curing really doesn’t improve the psychoactive effects, even within a year the effects degrade considerably even if stored properly.
It should be noted that enjoying a sativa variety is more subtle. The high type from a good sativa could be considered an enhancement, or the ability to ponder concepts which normally are out of ones reasoning. The subtleties of a sativa are sometimes lost on those who expect a certain high type, which usually includes a cloudiness or body effect. Also, most sativas take longer to experience the effects sometimes taking from 30 minutes to an hour to hit you. The experience may also last longer than most hybrid cannabis and the term long legs is used to describe this extension of effects.
The last bit of advice regarding cannabis sativa is to share with friends and take the time to enjoy life.
Originally published in SKUNK Volume 7, Issue 8