Cannabis sativa (Hemp)

Plant Info
Also known as: Ditchweed, Marijuana
Family:Cannabaceae (Hemp)
Life cycle:annual
  • Noxious Weed
  • Prohibited or Restricted species
Habitat:part shade, sun; fields, ditches, along roads, disturbed soil
Bloom season:June - October
Plant height:3 to 9 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle

[photo of male flowers] Hemp has both male and female flowers, usually on separate plants but both may be on the same plant. The male flowers are greenish and become cream or pale yellow with maturity, are ½-inch across when fully opened, hanging down with 5 widely spreading narrow petals and 5 creamy-tipped stamens, and loosely clustered on branching stems up to 12 inches long.

[photo of female flowers] The female flowers are green, stalkless, enclosed in gland-dotted bracts, and densely clustered along the stem and at the top of the plant, the pale style mostly erect.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves]  Leaves are in a fan-shaped array, palmately compound in groups of 3 to 9, alternately attached at the stem, though they may be oppositely attached near the base of the plant. Leaflets are linear to narrowly elliptic, tapering to a point at each end, coarsely serrated, with short stiff hairs on the surface. Leaflets in the middle of the fan are longer than those on the end. On a large male plant the middle leaflets may be up to 12 inches long and 1 inch wide. A female plant has smaller leaves, more tightly clustered at the stem but is generally more robust than male plants. Stems are smooth and green, sometimes tinged red.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a teardrop shaped capsule containing white or greenish seeds mottled with purple.


Hemp is sometimes referred to as "Industrial Hemp" for its uses such as making rope, fabric, and paper, or for its food value. Plants found in the wild are often leftovers from the days when it was a farm crop and do not typically have the "recreational" value of Marijuana, though I did once come upon a secret stash of Marijuana growing in 5-gallon pails at Boot Lake SNA in northern Anoka County. Whoever had placed them there was either very clever or very dumb, as they were located in the middle of a patch of Poison Sumac! Hemp is considered a noxious weed in Koochiching, Murray and Waseca counties of Minnesota, though there are no official records of its existence in those particular counties. It is likely a very under-reported species. There is some debate regarding subspecies, but when recognized, subsp. indica (also known as Cannabis indica) is generally considered a more compact plant with broader leaflets, where subsp. sativa has narrow leaflets. The chemical composition of the two is also rather different with indica apparently the more intoxicating of the two.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: alex - Becker Township, Sherburne Cou
on: 2009-07-27 13:16:10

Neighbor found one growing in my ditch, pulled it out. It was fairly large for it's age, found it in June. It was definitely an indica variety. Now I see more growing around here, all Sativa. I've pulled the males so the females won't produce seeds and spread like crazy next year. The sativa's growing around here all happen to be where I brought my trailer in the the spring for yard work, which means I unknowingly transplanted seeds all over my property.

Posted by: Jack - Mankato
on: 2011-05-18 00:37:08

Really? I didn't even know they grew wild here, where are these plants you speak of?

Posted by: sharon - lakeville
on: 2014-06-04 08:16:50

There was a small patch of this growing (or probably will be growing later after it sprouts) along the creek just above Foxborough park. Several years ago some kids tried to harvest it. They had it in black plastic garbage bags which they left behind my neighbor's house. I was walking and saw it and thought it was someone's lawn clippings. It got thrown in the yard waste container and I presume it became compost. I'm sure they were disappointed as there is a lot of stinging nettle along the creek where it was.

Posted by: tamara - minnesota
on: 2015-02-03 20:21:41

Minnesota ditch weed is all over the place. When my great grandpa was younger in which he has been gone for 38 years the farmers grew hemp to make rope. There was a hemp factory in this small town. The hemp plant now grows wild in this area.

Posted by: JIm - Southeast
on: 2016-07-23 16:28:19

I find patches of it all over SE Mn when I am out mushroom hunting. It spreads quickly once established. I saw some kids eyeing one patch and 2 weeks later I came back and it was gone. I think they thought they found someone's stash but if they had taken the time to look around they would have seen it all along the roadside for at least a half mile.

Posted by: Ridly - Jackson
on: 2017-06-09 17:34:42

Found a large patch at Holthe SNA. All the way at the end of the road past the gate on the left side. It's all me...

Posted by: PT - New Brighton, Ramsey County, MN
on: 2018-06-13 15:48:32

Ditch weed grows everywhere here. Especially around train tracks.

Posted by: Gee - Kellogg, MN
on: 2018-10-06 19:40:46

We have this growing in our back yard. Not sure which species or variety it is.

Posted by: Chuck - Eagan
on: 2018-11-12 14:42:04

Its growing along the railroad tracks, in between HYW 13 and the Minnesota river in Eagan/Mendota Heights

Posted by: Emily - Waseca
on: 2018-11-27 07:02:22

Confirmed ditchweed in Waseca! It's found near pretty much any agricultural field or ditch near a crop field that has a water source near by, I think the run off fertilizer helps it out. My dad as a teen with his friends used to work the fields in the summer, and they would pick ditchweed to get a free high, no matter the poor quality lol. My neighbors found marijuana in their backyard when they moved it and burned it immediately because they were frightened the cops would reprimand them. I'm not sure if it was feral or if it was my previous neighbor's grow stash, but the few plants that they burned definitely made the neighborhood hazey for a few hours hahaha

Posted by: Amber - Saint paul
on: 2018-12-15 00:44:14

So for this plant to be soooo horrific and invasive does anybody in mn care that it's able to in "one" mn growing season pull in 10x the co2 an put out 10x the oxygen a tree can in its entire life... Also can be transformed into a bio fuel for cars drive now....well being in 100% compliance with the rules ( just not the laws) like they did with the corn but won't infringe on our diet, well giving us clean air also beneficial to our lakes and rivers pulling harmful polution from our drinking water...amber

Posted by: pavlo - Ramsey county
on: 2019-09-11 17:30:47

I've seen this in people's yards and by the road. God put it there before it was illegal. If hemp is now legal then there is no reason the entire genus shouldn't be, not just ruderalis. We have outlawed a part of our culture that made America. Please legalize cannabis.

Posted by: terr - Nort Prairie
on: 2020-07-28 16:23:14

we smoke ditch weed around here. Yes, I gives a bit of a buzz

Posted by: Peter O. - Afton, MN
on: 2022-05-08 22:47:47

This grows on the edge of almost every corn/soybean field near here. I'm just hoping it doesn't spread to our property, as it seems pretty aggressive.

Posted by: gary - Blue Earth County
on: 2022-07-30 00:01:37

Wild plants near a rest stop. Too bad it is a felony.

Posted by: Kim - Dakota Co
on: 2023-10-14 17:44:41

They grow as volunteers in my backyard. Some are 9 feet tall. They're pretty and the pollinators absolutely love them. I'd like to know how I could use them, make paper or weave onto something. Hopefully I won?t get into trouble but I definitely did not plant them and have been told that birds likely dispersed seeds. They don't seem invasive.

Posted by: Jean Michelle Benoit - Sherburne
on: 2024-04-12 09:23:23

Since legalization last year, a group of concerned citizens has been using colloidal silver to make feminized seed of some amazing cannabis and broadly spreading it out the wild to improve the quality of ditchweed?. You're welcome.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2024-04-12 16:16:14

Jean, I hope you're kidding about spreading this in the wild. There are also concerned citizens trying to reduce the ecological degradation in our landscapes caused by weeds like Canabis. So, no thank you.

Posted by: KM - Burnsville
on: 2024-07-12 10:29:58

Lots of it growing here near a railroad crossing! All the rain this year probably did it good, as some of the plants are already nearing 6 feet! It's worth preserving the seeds of these plants, as modern cannabis strains are typically hybrids of hybrids at this point, with less genetic diversity. This is pure sativa, brought to the U.S. in the 17th century and possibly growing in this location since the mid-to-late 1800s!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2024-07-12 13:37:21

KM, whether this weed is worth preserving is a matter of opinion. You have no reliable way of knowing where any single population came from or how long it's been in that location.

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