In the world of cannabis there are multiple kind of plants. Not only the difference in strains and family (indica/sativa) are relevant but there are also differences in the way that particulair plant grows and blooms.
The most populair type of plants are called “photoperiod” which means that the plant behaves based on the amount of light hours it gets. Once these hours of light decrease and days become shorter, the plant knows naturally that it’s blooming phase has to start.
On the other hand, There are some type of cannabis plants that don’t need this change in light hours to start blooming. They do this automatically which is very unique for cannabis. That’s why they’re called:
After an x amount of weeks (depending on the strain but fair quickly), these plants will start to bloom automatically and stay very small which is quite handy in certain circumstances. Think about small grow closests or stealth garden grows.
Thanks to to short time it needs to finish it’s also a possibility to start growing them later in the season. This makes Autoflowers pretty attracting for some growers.
So we call a cannabis strain a “autoflower” when it starts it’s flowering phase automatically (without change of lightning) unlike photoperdio plants.
However it’s not all fun and games as there are some negative aspects too:
Difference in appearance
Next to their behaviour, autoflowers are also a little different in appearance. Mainly they stay quite small compared to photoperiod plants but these days there are a few strains that can grow to +- the same size as a photoperiod (in very good conditions). Normally, they are also less branchy and therefor have smaller yields.
The fact that an autoflower always have some ruderalis genetics in them, means that it will never be an exact copy of the original photoperiod strain. This means that it has very small differences in taste and looks but that’s hard to recognize.
Another important thing about autoflowers is that deu their abilities, it’s not possible to clone them because it’s in their genetics that they start to flower after an X amount of days.
So these genetics will also tell the clones to start their flowering phase when they are still very small (at the same time their motherplant starts to bloom). This makes it hard sometimes for commercial growers to work with autoflowers.
Origin of the autoflower
A cannabis plant with this special ability does not come out of no where. It has it’s reasons why it behaves differently compared with most cannabis plants. It all begins with the Cannabis Ruderalis which is a variety of the cannabis plant (like Indica/Sativa). The Ruderalis has it’s roots mostly in north, east and central europe and this plant has adapted to it’s environment big time!
The environmental conditions in those areas are very different then the warm climate that’s normally perfect for Cannabis. The summers are colder and shorter and in the northern areas the amount of light hours are very different (possibly 24 hours of light a day in).
These short summers are a true challenge for some plants as they need to bloom/produce seeds before to cold winter comes.
To fit in these circumstances, the Ruderalis has evolved to start the blooming phase very quickly and without the need for shorter days (Like other photoperiod plants/species). If they did behave like photoperiod plants, they couldn’t finish the blooming phase + seed production before the winter.
The Rudelaris start it’ s blooming phase automatically after a short time which makes it possible for this plant to live in these areas.
However, the Ruderalis on itself isn’t really potent and doesn’t offer the same psychoactive effects as his cousins do. Thats why in the 70’s more and more people got interested in crossing multiple strains and species (like ruderalis) to improve the quality and create new varieties of cannabis.
They found out that when a Ruderalis is crossed with a sativa/indica, it will result in a more potent plant with the same blooming behaviors as the Ruderalis.
The first documented crossing of Ruderalis X Sativa cam from Canada. Growers experimented with Ruderalis species found in the wild. Around the same time, geneticist Neville Schoenmaker started to cross ruderalis species in The Netherlands. These were the first steps of creating the Autoflower we know today.
So it began!
However the story of the autoflower really started when the “Joint Doctor” introduced a strain called: Lowryder. This was the first real, commercial autoflower and it’s a crossing between Cannabis Ruderalis,
A Williams wonder and Northern lights #2. It began when this “joint doctor” got hold on some seeds from a strain called: “mexican rudy”. He didn’t really know the origins of the strain but he got told that this strain flowered way earlier then others and was grown for already for a while in Canada.
After some research, the “joint doctor” crossed this quick-flowering strain with Northern Light #2 (because of it’s short growing time and high thc levels). This resulted in quick and compact F1 plants but they weren’t really a true autoflower as they still react on hours of light.
So he crossed this one with multiple clones he had and one of them was named “Williams wonder”. The first male plants that came out of this (Williams wonder X (NLX#2 X Mexican Rudy) showed very quick signs of flowering.
After that, The Joint Doctor started to use these males to pollinate and created a generation of autoflowering plants which all finished in 60 days. Also the plants stayed very small which was perfect for certain growing conditions and small closets. He was on to something!
At first, the joint doctor called this strain “willy’s automatic”. He kept breeding this strain and after 5-6 generations the plants were stable enough to be official released.
He then called it “Lowryder” but the public were somehow pretty skeptical about it as it had low THC levels and they didn’t like the taste. However, the fact that it flowered automatically was a new positive thing in the cannabis world and kept people excited.
The joint doctor realized he had to change things and started to experiment again. He then crossed the lowryder strain with a sativa called: “Santa Maria” and produced great results this way. The strain produced very potent buds with an amazing taste and also gave bigger yields.
He called it: Lowryder #2and the first real, potent autoflower was born! Once these Lowryder #2 seeds were released they became very populair with growers all over the world.
The benefits of the autoflower like quick yields and shorter bloom periods inspired other breeders and seed companies to produce their own. Populair and well known strains were transformed to autoflowers which resulted in the maasice choice today when it comes to auto’s.