Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa is probably the most common form of cannabis worldwide and also the type with the most applications. 

Typical appearance of Sativa strains

Cannabis Sativa is normally a tall plant, and is generally a lighter shade of green than the other types. Its leaves are made up of long, narrow blades. Female flowers (the buds) are longer and more 'feathery' in appearance than those of Cannabis Indica. In general, the foliage of a Sativa plant is somewhat sparser than that of the other varieties. This allows for more air flow around and between the plants, resulting in healthier growth and less risk of fungus in the humid tropical conditions where many Sativa strains originated.

How the equatorial origins of Sativa strains affect their growth

Cannabis Sativa grows taller than the other types of cannabis, gaining height all through its vegetation, or growing, and flowering phases. This is due to the tropical origin of Sativa strains. In the regions close to the equator, the amount of daylight hours does not change very much throughout the year, so Sativa strains are adapted to accomplish both their growing and flowering in a short, fairly uniform photoperiod (the daily number of hours of day (light) vs. night (dark)). In this way they are at the opposite end of the cannabis spectrum to Ruderalis strains.

The female flowers of Cannabis Sativa start at the nodes (the points at which pairs of leaves grow from the stem and branches) and usually expand along the length of the stem and branches, instead of clustering around the nodes, as with other types of cannabis. This flower formation is due to the Sativa tendency to grow and flower simultaneously. As a result, female Sativa flowers are usually less dense and weigh less than Indica flowers, despite being equal or larger in size.

Differences between Cannabis Indica (left) and Cannabis Sativa (right)

Cannabis Sativa hybrids

Pure strains of Cannabis Sativa often require a combined growing and flowering period of around six months to ripen completely. For this reason pure Sativa strains are rarely used for indoor cultivation or sold as commercial cannabis seeds. All Sativa strains that are viable for indoor growing have been cross-bred with Indica strains in order to reduce their height and flowering time. Even so, Sativa-Indica hybrids generally have a longer flowering period than their Indica relatives.

Multiple uses of Cannabis Sativa 

Nearly all hemp grown for industrial purposes is Cannabis Sativa. As the tallest variety, it produces the longest fibres and therefore has the widest range of industrial uses. As a recreational variety Sativa strains impart an energetic, cerebral and inspiring 'high', usually followed by a craving for food, especially sweet items, commonly known as 'the munchies'. Although this aspect of the cannabis high is often the subject of jokes, it is also of life-saving importance when used by people undergoing chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS treatment and other procedures that cause nausea and/or lack of appetite.

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Collection items

Image of cannabis Sativa.

Prints and photos on display in our museums depict the different parts of the cannabis plant, from germinating seeds to fragrant heads.

A peasant in Brittany (France) spins yarn from hemp fibre.

Did you know that industrial hemp is one of the oldest agricultural crops on earth? Learn all about the industrial use of hemp in our museums.

Pills with cannabis extract, made in New York.

Cannabis was widely used as an ingredient in nineteenth century medicine, during the golden age of its therapeutic use. The museums house a unique collection of cannabis medicine bottles.