Indica, Sativa, Hybrid: Is there a difference? Are they real?

Indica, Sativa, Hybrid:  Is there a difference? Are they real? 

Short answer, No.  Everything is technically a hybrid.  At best, these descriptors are lazy shorthand for growers to describe plant qualities (not effects) and at worst they are pure marketing buzzwords.  Your set and setting play a bigger role in how cannabis will affect you.

Long answer:  There is a different perception of indica, sativa and ruderalis (also known as autoflowering), depending on whether you are a breeder, or a consumer.  When breeders are discussing the qualities of their own plants, they are usually referring to the growing characteristics of that plant.  When a consumer is talking about these varieties, they are usually referring to how each will make them feel, regardless of growing characteristics. 

Variation is possible, you could have a sativa variety that grows like an indica or an indica variety that feels like sativa.  Even the same pack of seeds with seeds that all came from the same plant can have different phenotypes* that express different characteristics.  In a single pack of 4 seeds you could have homogenous expression (where the plants produced from the seeds are almost all the same) or you could have what some breeders refer to as “favorable variation” in phenotypes (where the plants produced are all different).  In a room with 4 plants that grew from 4 seeds plucked from the same plant, one variety could turn out to be more citrusy, another taller, another more purple, and another heavier yielding than the rest.  Just siblings are not necessarily identical (but sometimes have similar features), plant varieties don’t look exactly like their brothers and sisters (even when they came from the same parents).  The only way to ensure varieties grow out the exact same is to keep a mother plant* of your favourite phenotype, and clip clones. 


See the plant structure on each of the varieties and notice the proportionate sizing.  While these are what these varieties typically resemble, it can vary greatly from seed to seed (one phenotype that finishes quicker than the rest, or produces more, or has better flavour, or exhibits fatter leaves or is taller, etc).

Sativa varieties are typically native to places with long summers—they need a lot of sun for a long flowering period 9-11+ weeks.  Indicas are native to places with much shorter summers and have a shorter flowering period of 6-9 weeks. 

Hybrids (a combination of sativa and indica) will take 8-10 weeks of flowering (depending on the genetics and phenotype).  

Ruderalis (also known as autoflowering) is native to many regions and is different because it automatically goes into a flowering period without doing a light/season change (so you could keep it on 18-24 hours if you wanted); the entire life cycle is 8-10 weeks from start to finish.  You cannot clone an autoflowering plant.



Growing Characteristics

Associated "Feeling"*


-Long, skinny leaves       

-Lighter green leaves

-Long flowering time

-Tall and stretchy           



-Energetic high*


-Daytime Use*



-Shorter and squat

-Stubby, fat leaves

-Dark green leaves

-Shorter flowering time



-Narcotic stone*

-Couch locked*

-Evening Use*




-Very short, shrub-like

-Small leaves  

-No season/light change

-Shortest life-cycle



-Anytime Use*

-Unique “auto” flavour

*Perception of sensation can vary from set and setting* and instance to instance.  

**Autoflowers may have leaves with 5 and 7 fingers as well, and an unhealthy full-photoperiod plant can have only 3 leaves.

Hybrids could be a mixed-bag variation of any of these qualities.  Most varieties are a hybrid—very few categorize themselves as 100% pure sativa or 100% pure indica, even fewer as landrace* varieties, which also adds to the possibility of different phenotype expressions.



Phenotype and Genotype:  The plant’s genetic makeup, also called a genotype, acts as a blueprint for growth: it allows a spectrum of physical possibilities, but it is up to the environment to induce these characteristics. The physical expression of a genotype is referred to as a phenotype, which is simply defined as the traits that the environment pulls out from the plant’s genetic code. Everything from color, shape, smell, and resin production are affected by the environment.

Landrace:  A strain that grows naturally without human intervention and is indigenous to specific regions.  Examples of a landrace would be Afghani. Colombian, Early Maroc.  White Widow (Brazilian X Indian) is made up of landraces but is not a landrace itself.

Mother Plant:  A plant with desirable traits that is grown for the purpose of taking cuttings in order to grow more quantity of the exact same plant.  Mothers remain in a vegetative state.

Set and Setting:  Refers to a person’s mindset and the setting (place) where they consume.

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