Throughout history cannabis has been used medicinally, and the plant’s valuable fibers were crafted into rope, bowstrings, and cloth. People carried seeds with them when they migrated to a new area and eventually it reached South and Central America.
Marijuana was little known in the United States until relatively recent times. Mexican immigrants may have brought it to the United States in the early 1900s. It escaped from cultivation and became a wild plant.
Native to Central Asia cannabis was domesticated about 12,000 years ago and is one of humanity’s oldest crops. Although of the same species the plant has two distinct forms due to a genetic shift. One, called marijuana, has a high THC content. This is the chemical that creates medicinal and psychoactive impact. The other form is usually called hemp. It lacks much THC but can grow to 16 feet tall with a stalk that contains long amazingly strong fibers. Both types look the same.
Most wild cannabis is of the hemp strain and has little hallucinogenic or medicinal value. Iowans often call it ditch weed. Patches make outstanding winter habitat for pheasants and other wildlife and the plant’s roots hold the soil and reduce erosion.
Cannabis is a hardy annual that loves growing in hot sunny places, often in poor soil. It is sometimes abundant along roads, railroad embankments, and even in big cities. Cannabis is as comfortable growing along an Iowa road as it is in Brooklyn, New York’s, pavement cracks. It might appear in anyone’s garden.
You’ve probably heard of ditch weed, a term that’s used to refer to cannabis that grows wild here in the U.S. The name suggests its ability to grow anywhere, “even in a ditch.” The theory goes that ditch weed is a descendent of industrial hemp which was bred and cultivated legally prior to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
Across the Atlantic, cannabis ruderalis is the Asian, Central and Eastern European, and Russian version of ditch weed. Named because of its propensity to grow in less than ideal environments (the definition of ruderal is a plant growing on waste ground or among refuse, from the Latin “rudus” meaning rubble), cannabis ruderalis is a short and bushy plant whose genetics lay somewhere between indica and sativa and are adapted to their local environments.
Wild cannabis will thrive without human intervention in most climates (with the exception of hot and arid desert or very cold climates), but does particularly well in more temperate regions such as Northern California’s Emerald Triangle and the Himalayas.
Our forebears who understood cannabis’ therapeutic benefits didn’t grow cannabis in warehouses or massive greenhouses. They found it in its natural habitat, in the hills and countryside around them. And wild, aka feral cannabis, can be found growing practically everywhere throughout the world and on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.
The majority of modern consumers will never encounter ditch weed, but a large majority will encounter buds grown from autoflowering seeds. The cannabis that most of us know and love is very different from wild-growing cannabis plants, but the two share a deep connection, both in showing us how far we’ve come, and helping to create the next generation of cannabis.
Unlike ditch weed, cannabis ruderalis has made a massive impact on current cannabis breeding, because ruderalis begins flowering with age as opposed to changes in light cycles (also known as their photoperiod). Through selected crossbreeding, this has allowed breeders to develop auto-flowering strains that make it much easier for less experienced growers to successfully harvest their own plants.
Some people have been known to deliberately plant seeds in the ditches and come back for it, in order to avoid the law. This is because as by DEA definitions, ditch weed has no evidence of being the result of planned cultivation, and is assumed to have grown in wild.
Some ditch weed may just be randomly growing, likely to have come from hemp crops that have reseeded themselves. Hemp is a wild plant found in the Midwest and states like Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota.
Maximum Yield Explains Ditch Weed
Ditch weed can be found on the side of the road as well, hence the name. When it is dried, cured, and smoked, ditch weed makes for a decent head high. Ditch weed is related to and descended from industrial hemp plants that were produced for fiber, so it typically has low amounts of THC.
Ditch weed can grow to be eight or nine feet tall, but because it isn't tended to like farmed, indoor-grown, or greenhouse plants, the buds are not as sticky. Also, the run-off of pesticides or toxins on the road likely affect the quality of the bud, depending on the location and climate.
Another theory behind ditch weed is that it grows from seeds that were present in the roach of a joint that was tossed out the window. All of these theories means that ditch weed is scattered about instead of appearing in an organized grid or layout.