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Cannabis sativa L., this is the botanical name of hemp, a plant species belonging to the Cannabaceae family, a family of dicotyledonous angiosperm plants which also includes Hops (Humulus lupulus L.). Originally from Central Asia, it has been known since ancient times for its excellent textile fibers and for its healing properties.

General characteristics

Cannabis is an annual plant, characterized by a tap root and an erect or branched stem that has resinous growths. It has two types of leaves: fan-shaped, large, composed of 5-13 lanceolate lobes depending on the variety, with serrated margins and resinous leaves, much smaller and located in the ends of the inflorescences, elongated and covered with crystals of resin.

Cannabis plants are dioecious i.e. they are distinguished in individuals characterized by the presence of female and male flowers. In rare cases, a single specimen, called a hermaphrodite, can develop both.

The female flowers, located in the tops, consist of a calyx and pistils and, if fertilized, by the male pollen, they will give rise to the development of seeds. Male flowers consist of sac-like structures which, when opened, disperse pollen into the air (wind pollination).

Noteworthy are the trichomes, small glandular structures located in the resinous buds and leaves that are particularly rich in cannabinoids and terpenes.


Botanists do not agree on the taxonomic classification of this plant however, for the sole purpose of simplification, three species can be distinguished:

  • Cannabis sativa: characterized by poor branching and lobed and thin leaves, it exceeds two meters in height. It prefers warm environments.
  • Cannabis indica: reaches a height of about 1.5-2 meters and is characterized by leaves with wider lobes and high branching. It is able to adapt even to rather harsh climates.
  • Cannabis ruderalis: does not exceed one meter in height, is devoid of branches and is able to grow in cold environments with rather long winters. The induction of flowering is not caused by variations in the duration of the day (photoperiod), in fact these varieties are called “self-flowering”.

Indica and Sativa are photoperiod varieties, that is characterized by a life cycle that can be divided into two parts: growth and flowering. Plants can in fact grow very tall compared to Ruderalis, whose life cycle, on the other hand, cannot be divided as it begins its growth and flowering process already from germination: consequently the plant is in fact much smaller.

Other terms to know

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