Plants are classified according to a system dating back hundreds of years. Cannabis sativa L. is the binomial name or the species name for the cannabis plant. It is from the family of plants known as Canabaceae, which includes other plants like Hops and Hackberries.
Cannabis can be subdivided into two main subspecies sativa and indica. There are variations to those sub species in the form of hybrid’s and one other subspecies, Ruderalis, which is less common. For our purposes here we will be looking at the differences between sativa strains and indica strains.
Sativa strains originated in an area around the equator and can be found in countries like Colombia, Mexico, Thailand and several African Nations.
The Indica strains originated from a higher altitude and can be found predominantly in countries known for their hash culture such as Morocco, Afghanistan, Nepal and Turkey. These plants are shorter and fuller plants compared to their sativa counterparts.
The top five differences between indica and sativa are:
Sativas will always grow taller than their Indica sisters. Indoors I've seen sativas get as big as six feet while indicas tend to stay short - around three feet.
As a connoisseur smoker there is nothing like a sativa high. The sativas are like a Chateau Lafitte Rothschild ’65: A fine wine that tastes even better with age. I’ve smoked sativas that have been cured for more than 24 months and the high had no ceiling, meaning that with every new joint you smoked you just got higher and higher. With the indicas I find the effect to be quite universal across multiple different strains. It is usually a couch-locked “I wanna sit and play Playstation” kind of feeling. That being said, it is actually the indicas that have the strongest analgesic effect when it comes to medical cannabis, it’s usually the sativas that have a higher amount of THC compared to CBDs.
Sativas have a wide range in flavors from fruity, like a Fruity Thai or Amnesia, to what is known as the cat-piss flavor, which is more of an ammonia scent. The indicas can also be quite fruity which you see a lot in the Kush varieties, as well as sport skunk flavors as found in indica hybrids.
Sativas can take a long time to finish, I've seen a plant even go over 20 weeks, it was a pure Cambodian with the thinnest leaves I've ever seen. With sativas you could always change the 12/12 photo period to 11 on and 13 off to speed things up in the last few weeks. Indicas have a much shorter flowering time with the quickest indica I've ever seen finishing around 44 days, it was a Dutch strain called Top44. However, generally, indicas are finished between eight and 10 weeks. With added CO2 they will usually finish a week earlier.
Generally speaking the indicas tend to have a higher yield than their sativa sisters. However there are exceptions. Back when I was with Delta-9 Labs we had a sativa that finished in 14 weeks but had a yield that was almost double any other plant we had. On the indica side of things, the OG Kush tends to be low-yielding compared to some of the other indica sisters which can be mega yielders.