Sativa cannabis plant between an indica plant and a hybrid plant

What Is Cannabis Sativa: Characteristics, Top Strains, & More

Sativa is one of the three main classifications of marijuana plants that you’ll find in your dispensary, but what does that even mean? The truth is, we’re still learning how sativa differentiates itself, and the answer may surprise you. In this guide, we’ll help you learn all about sativa by answering these questions:

  • What is Sativa? 
  • What Are the Characteristics of Sativa?
  • How to Spot a Sativa Plant?
  • What Are the Popular Sativa Strains?
  • How Do You Ingest Sativa?
  • Answering Sativa FAQs

What is Sativa?

Cannabis sativa is a cannabis cultivar with lighter-colored,long, thin fan leaves. Unlike its shorter, bushier indica counterpart, sativa can grow up to 12 feet tall—making it challenging for growers to raise in their greenhouses and grow rooms. Sativa was first discovered in the middle of the 18th century by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, and continues to be popular with cannabis enthusiasts today.

What Are the Characteristics of Sativa?

You know sativa is the taller, thinner version of cannabis plants grown around the world, but what about the effects? What are they like? What sativa characteristics differentiate it from indica? Well, the answer isn’t so simple.

For a long time, people throughout the cannabis community thought that sativa had uplifting effects, compared to its supposedly mellow cousin, indica. As more research has been done on these two varieties of cannabis plants, we’ve realized that there is no indica versus sativa. Rather, there’s only one singular species—Cannabis sativa L. 

So why are we still labeling marijuana under an indica, sativa, or hybrid classification? It’s the same reason why we call tissues “Kleenex,” a brand name, instead of “tissues”—once you get used to calling something by a certain label, it’s hard to change. Until we’re able to identify a better system, everyone from growers to distributors is holding on to the three-type marijuana system. 

Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for consumers to know what effects they’re getting with each strain they purchase. That’s why it’s important to consider not just whether the marijuana is indica, sativa, or a hybrid, but also what terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids are present in each strain.

How to Spot a Sativa Plant?

If you’re ever able to tour a growing facility, or if your state allows homegrown cannabis, you’ll know a sativa cannabis plant right away—they’re huge. Sativa is so big, in fact, that a lot of smaller and home growers opt to grow it outside because their grow rooms simply aren't big enough to accommodate sativa’s height.

If you happen to see a sativa before it reaches those mammoth heights, it’s possible you could ID a sativa because of its thinner leaf blades. The problem with this method is that sativa hybrids often don’t have the same physical characteristics that a landrace sativa has. Therefore, if you want to know if it’s a sativa plant, and it's not fully grown, the best thing to do is ask.

What Are the Popular Sativa Strains?

With so many sativa strains, including hybrids, on the market, it would be impossible to list all the fan-favorites. That said, if you’re looking for a true sativa strain—called a landrace sativa—we’ve got the marijuana plants for you. These are our favorite sativa landrace strains:

Durban Poison


Originally from the port town of Durban, South Africa, this landrace sativa has been a favorite of cannabis enthusiasts for decades. It’s harvested for its gorgeous, trichome-covered buds for premium flower, concentrates, and more. Durban Poison is potent with 24% THC, so if it's your first time purchasing it from your dispensary, take it slow and just enjoy—you’re consuming one of the OG sativa strains.

Acapulco Gold


There’s no question where this landrace hails from—Acapulco, Mexico. Acapulco Gold may be popular, but it’s still hard to find at the dispensaries thanks to its finicky growing needs. That said, if you live in one of the warmer climates of the United States, you just may get lucky and notice the top-shelf marijuana because of its unique gold-colored flower. Acapulco Gold ranges from moderately high to just plan high THC levels (19-24%), so give yourself time to feel the effects before consuming too much at once.



Keeping to the tropical climates, Jamaican landrace isn’t just a single landrace strain, it’s a collection of landraces all found throughout the island nation. If the big, mint-green flower doesn’t catch your attention, the smell of it certainly will thanks to its skunk-meets-sweet aroma. While Jamaican can range from moderate-to-high levels of THC (13-21%), it also has a moderate level of CBD too (10%).

How Do You Ingest Sativa?

Sativa can be consumed the same ways that any marijuana product can. You have edibles, flower, concentrates, beverages, oils, tinctures and more available, and many of them come in a sativa variety. You may notice as the products get further away from the actual cannabis flower (like a cannabis beverage), they are no longer classified as sativa, indica, or hybrid. This is due to the fact that many of those products start to only contain specific cannabinoids, like THC isolate. If you truly want to experience sativa, and experience the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids of each strain, you should look into different cannabis flower consumption methods.  

Answering Sativa FAQs

Research about sativa continues to evolve, and because of this, cannabis enthusiasts have a lot of questions. Here are just a few of our budtenders’ most frequently asked questions:

Can you grow your own sativa cannabis plants?
In some states, yes, you can grow your own sativa cannabis plants. The problem is that sativa is typically grown outdoors, due to its size and long flowering time. Because of this, while your state may allow you to grow your own marijuana, you may find it hard to provide the environment that sativa needs to thrive.

Is sativa an upper?
We used to think that sativa and indica marijuana plants had their own unique effects—indica was calming, sativa was energizing. Now, we know the effects we feel from marijuana plants depend on their cannabinoid and terpene profiles, as well as how your endocannabinoid system reacts to them.

Is there a difference between indica and sativa?
There are some differences between indica and sativa plants, but it likely has nothing to do with the effects you feel. Instead, the differences between the two marijuana plants are more physical than anything else. To learn more, check out our guide to indica versus sativa.

Asking yourself “what are terpenes?” You’re not alone. That’s why we built a guide to answer all your terpene-related questions.

Is Sativa Right for Me?

Because there are so many different sativa landrace strains, sativa-dominant hybrids, and sativa-leaning hybrids, there’s a good chance that if you tried enough of them, you’d find something you’d like. So yes, sativa could be right for you—but you’ll only know if you try. Your best way to do that is to head to your local dispensary and start your research.

Recreational cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Ohio and Pennsylvania. State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and certified patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.