Finding Wild Marijuana – Foraging for Cannabis Ruderalis
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Although uncommon in the modern western world, it is not all that unusual to find the cannabis plant thriving in some untended corner of a lot, along country roadsides, or reaching for the sun in competition with other wild plants on a mountainside. Hunting for wild marijuana (as well as a multitude of other useful wild herbs) is a favorite pastime of mine. Autumn is prime time (for those with keen eyes) to find cannabis plants in flower, or perhaps already gone to seed – which is a great opportunity add some C. ruderalis, or stray sativa genetics to your collection.
Crossing a “wild” strain with a commercial plant is a great way to breed seeds that are suited to your climate. In the next growing season, take a pocketful with you on an afternoon walk and be the modern Johnny Appleseed; a guerilla gardener spreading the goodness around with the hope that this lovely plant will take hold amongst the local flora and become a permanent fixture.
Here’s a lovely C. ruderalis I came across a short time ago while on a walk (I need to check back if she’s gone to seed yet). This plant was already flowering and has probably produced seeds by now – a fine specimen adapted to a shorter grow season and perfect for crossing with a higher-yielding indica/sativa blend:
Keep your eyes peeled while out of doors this fall – you may be surprised where this wily plant will show up. I’ve also found wild plants growing along roadsides where new trees were planted. The seeds must have been in the mulch they spread in hopes of keeping “weeds” down. Ironic! I even found a beautiful little plant with purple-tinged buds growing among the yarrow and dandelions in front of a doughnut shop.
Tips for Marijuana Hunting:
- Be prepared to look for a variety of leaf shapes and plant sizes. I’ve seen mature plants no taller than a dandelion (below) or taller than most basketball players (first image above). Google “cannabis leaves” and have a look – you may find long, thin sativa-like leaves, or broad, fat leaves that almost look like stinging nettle.
- Look for sunny spots where disturbed soil butts up against things man-made. Fallow lots, abandoned construction sites, and urban footpaths are prime territory. Don’t trespass 😉 Cannabis is a wily plant that can get by with little water and in poor soil. These plants may not produce a lot of bud, but the seeds are carrying ‘survivalist’ genetics you can use to cross-breed your own strains that are fit for guerilla gardening.
- On the flip-side of the previous point, it’s unusual to find wild marijuana in rich, moist soil. Generally, faster growing plants that prefer the richer soil get a leg up, and keep cannabis from taking hold there.
- Respect the wild plant. If you’ve ever cultivated marijuana, you’ll have respect for the long road to flowering – and the wild plant was also lucky enough not to be gobbled up by a deer, weed-wacked by a civil servant, or uprooted by a greedy forager. Pick only a small bud, or better yet, gather seeds. Take a few pictures – finding wild marijuana is fun and exciting! If there are a lot of seeds, consider spreading a few around in the area where similar growing conditions exist.
- Finally, be cautious of those who may actually be illegally cultivating! If you’re on a hike deep into the countryside and find several large, healthy plants, they are probably not wild plants. You run the chance up bumping into their large, healthy caretakers, who are probably not keen on foraging, picture-taking visitors.
Please, if you do decide to “guerilla garden”, don’t put yourself at odds with the law. Know your local laws. Please respect public lands! Spreading a few C. ruderalis seeds that will take hold if conditions are right is a world of difference from, for example, illegally cultivating (digging, watering, fertilizing) in a park or preserve. Don’t do it. Encouraging the wild growth of this useful plant, however, is fine. It will provide food for a variety of birds and foraging animals, and who knows, perhaps a spliff for an enterprising racoon?
Most important, remember the etiquette of the forager when searching for wild herbs – marijuana included: Never uproot plants, and be sure to leave plenty there so that there will be more next season! If you see a budding plant, take just a small bud (it’s likely not to be the greatest smoke anyway) and sample it with the same pleasure as you might when collecting wild raspberries. The forager’s motto is to leave at least 90% of what you find so the plant has a chance to come back again and again. Take seeds and spread them! In this way you’ll ensure that there’s even more in the next generation, and if you like what you sampled, that means more for you.
Here are a couple more shots from an earlier post, showing wild Cannabis ruderalis: