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Cannabis Species

It has been called everything from ‘green gold’ to ‘the Devil’s weed’, but what is Cannabis Sativa L.?

‘Cannabis’ is the name given to the plant itself. ‘Sativa’ simply means ‘sown’, and is used to indicate the common or cultivated form of a plant. The ‘L.’ refers to Carolus Linneaeus, the Swedish botanist who first gave this common yet celebrated herb its scientific classification in 1753.

Photo: Floris Leeuwenberg

Three types of cannabis

There are three main types of cannabis

‘Cannabis’ is the name given to the plant itself. ‘Sativa’ simply means ‘sown’, and is used to indicate the common or cultivated form of a plant. The ‘L.’ refers to Carolus Linneaeus, the Swedish botanist who first gave this common yet celebrated herb its scientific classification in 1753.

Since then, two more main types of cannabis have been identified: Cannabis Indica was classified in 1785 and Cannabis Ruderalis in 1924. Both are sub-species of the Cannabis Sativa family, and the three types are distinguished by the different characteristics and traits they display.

Cannabis or Hemp?

From huge fibre-producing industrial hemp plants to the most potent of medicinal strains, the entire spectrum may be accurately referred to as cannabis, or even hemp (though this is a more archaic usage), as all types are of the same species (just as Great Danes and Chihuahuas may both be called dogs).

To avoid confusion, this site uses the term hemp when referring to the industrial crop, and cannabis to mean the medicinal and recreational varieties with a high cannabinoid content.

The Cannabaceae Family

Cannabis is part of the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants. These plants are wind-pollinated, and are usually dioecious (producing distinct male and female plants). Hops are in the same family, and more distant relatives include figs, mulberries and the common stinging nettle.

Types of Cannabis

Learn more about the three main types of Cannabis

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