Well, long answer short: Yes, there is and it’s called Cannabis ruderalis, a low-THC variety native to Russia, Central and Eastern Europe. Many cannabis experts accept the fact that Cannabis ruderalis is a species in its own due to its traits and phenotypes, which set it apart from the sativa and indica variety – even though it is still debated so as to whether it is truly a sub-species of the sativa family.
So what can we take away from this short, sweet and simple answer? You’re probably familiar with indicas and sativas because they’re the two varieties that tend to pop up the most in ‘intellectual cannabis discussions’. But little is often said about Ruderalis – a small and fast growing marijuana plant that typically reaches no more than two feet, with its narrow leaves and significantly less branches and flowers
And as mentioned earlier, Ruderalis is very low in THC – in fact, you might even question so as to why anyone in their right mind would grow it when indicas and sativas offer a much better experience.
Let’s delve in deeper, shall we?
Perennial Auto Flowering Strains – Can it be the Secret Weapon?
Perhaps something that many weed experts often don’t care to discuss is that Ruderalis has one attribute that makes it potentially very attractive: its ability to auto flower but without requiring any specific light patterns.
That’s right – Cannabis ruderalis has the ability to autoflower on its own, based on age only, and not on how much light it receives. This explains why so many growers are now cross-breeding Ruderalis with sativa or indica strains to enjoy the benefits of both.
So this brings us to: perennial (multi-year) cannabis – what is it? Why would an everyday cannabis user want to be well-versed on the subject?
Enter the Perennial
As most of us know, marijuana plants are annual. They go through their respective life stages in any given year, kicking off their lifecycle in spring, reaching the maturation stage in summer and finally, ending their lifecycle in autumn when the big buds start to sprout.
This is the typical cannabis plant lifecycle but, of course, there are autoflowering strains that have even faster growth rates, with a lifecycle that comes to an end within 2-4 months. Through a specific cloning mechanism, you can (in theory) extend these same plant genetics for nearly unlimited generations by keeping a normal photosensitive mother plant under a 24-hour light cycle.
While this mother keeping can be fantastic for cloning, you won’t be able to get any buds as the plant will be in an “always growing” mode during the vegetative growth phase.
One way of getting a perennial/multi-year harvest is to induce your plant into the vegetative phase again, once the buds have been cut off. In fact, his process has been utilised many times by marijuana lovers in the California mountains as well as indoor growers – because there’s no need to purchase new seeds and you can have the same genetics every time around.
However, it’s difficult to say how many vegetative to flowering to vegetative stages a cannabis plant can tolerate. We’re willing to bet that the constant light cycle change will subject the plant to a lot of stress and it might eventually die altogether.
If you ask any cannabis connoisseur, they will tell you that there are currently no genetics that have the ability to grow in one season, then hibernate in winter and finally start growing again in the next season – although quite a few folks have tried their hand at creating perennial auto flowering strains.
In fact, in the last few years, enthusiasts and seasoned growers as well have attempted to cross-breed marijuana species with Hops and a number of other Cannabaceae family species, with no success in sight. There have also been reports of growers trying to graft cannabis branches on hop plants and even the other way around. This has not worked either because the grafted section would house the original plant genetics, while the host plant would house different genetic material. The two simply cannot be mixed.
But imagine how cool it would be if it were possible to plant a cannabis seed and see a non-stop harvest through every season – while not having to take into consideration any changes in light cycle or the cold weather. The impressive yield that one plant alone would give as the years pass by – because cannabis plants are capable of growing really quickly and provide several times more fibre mass than regular trees can in 12 months.
If you can picture this scenario for a moment, it’s not hard to imagine the wonderful series of events unfolding: a cannabis plant starting a brand new lifecycle with the same root mass from the year before and growing exponentially in the second year and the third. Given the countless cross-breeding cycles using the strongest re-vegged phenotypes – you might end up with a strain that’s capable of surviving multiple generations in equatorial areas where it hardly ever drops below 0°C.
Do Perennials Really Exist?
A genetically modified strain from BC SEEDS called Forever Buds could potentially be a perennial marijuana strain. If you Google up a description, it says that it is a single cannabis plant that provides buds for decades. Allegedly, they have discovered the “genetic switch” to keep a single plant young for many decades – by keeping it suspended in the flowering phase, which allows the plant to produce its own year-round buds.
The grower claims that the genetically modified plant has produced buds for eight straight years, on average providing yields to the tune of nine kilos of dried bud mass each year. They further state that the plant can grow an unbelievable 28 feet tall. The strain is commercially available although it’s difficult to say how effective it is because there hasn’t been any clinical evidence to support those claims.
We believe that extensive clinical testing is vital in order to verify that every single aspect of the flower remains the same, but particularly to ensure that no harmful chemicals or substances are present as a direct result of the genetic modification process.
Another grower that goes by the name Doggies Nuts Seeds has apparently manufactured a perennial autoflowering strain called Big Bad John – claiming that it is a deciduous herbaceous perennial strain, which more or less means that it can re-emerge after dying.
Again (allegedly), the plant can get over winter and re-emerge in spring and the cycle will repeat into infinity. Doggies Nuts Seeds have also stated that the plant can grow wild if left unchecked, colonising areas wherever it is placed. In one season alone, it is capable of producing 3-4 generations of offspring – with each generation maturing and doing the same thing as intended.
A strain dubbed Long John Silver by Pukka Seeds comes to mind. Sharing similar genetic traits as its stronger, older and more obese brother Big Bad John, the strain has an indoor flowering period of just under 8 weeks and can grow up to 5 feet tall. Pukka Seeds have also made claims that “if left to be it will set seeds, then these seeds will grow & then these plants will do the same thing so on & so forth ad infinitum!” –Source
All this talk about multi-year autoflowering plants can be confusing, perhaps even a bit misleading. Is it all just a marketing ploy? Well, that’s difficult to establish at the moment. Many cannabis experts say that all autoflowering varieties technically do the same thing, whether they are perennial or not.
You might be able to get an autoflowering strain to re-emerge after the harvesting cycle and end up with an immortal plant, but not many autoflowering strains in existence today can make that claim – at Seedsman, we certainly don’t offer any perennial autoflowering strains because we have not seen enough evidence to suggest that it is officially a “thing” in the cannabis growing world.
And as far as the claim goes of populating or colonising an entire field with wild autoflowering pants – well, just about any variety of autoflowering plant would do the same thing if left unattended.
For a fact, nearly all autoflowering strains are semi-perennial. The plant is actually born to be perennial – however, once the ideal conditions are around, their annual genetics are triggered once, at which point, the plant will ‘activate’ its self-destructive mode and flower quite extensively.
If an autoflowering plant is kept under low light, it won’t flower as much but it will certainly survive after the flowering stage and in approximately 6 weeks, it will grow new leaves. Big Bad John is simply an improved autoflowering strain that cannot be easily turned into an annual ‘self-destruct once’ strain. The end result: the plants don’t flower all that much.
To conclude – annual plants offer greater advantages over perennials because they can produce more offsprings and allow the plant genetics to evolve really quickly.