The real difference between today’s indica and sativa plants is in their observable traits during the cultivation cycle. Indica plants tend to grow short with thick stems and broad, deep-green leaves. They also have short flowering cycles, and grow sufficiently in cold, short-season climates. Sativa plants have longer flowering cycles, fare better in warm climates with long seasons, and usually grow taller with light-green, narrow leaves.
For the last 50 years of cannabis cultivation, crossbreeding has been the name of the game. As a result, there’s virtually no such thing as a “pure” indica or sativa anymore. Every flower you’ve ever come in contact with has most likely been a hybrid of some sort. Classifying a particular cultivar, or strain, as indica or sativa usually means that it tilts to one side or the other of an indica/sativa spectrum.
Sativa vs. Indica Effects
The “indica vs. sativa” framework has drawn controversy, and for good reason. As you research cultivars online, you may keep coming up against the same phrases to describe sativas (“cerebral,” “heady,”, “uplifting”, “energizing”) and indicas (“relaxing,” “sedating,” “full-bodied,” “couchlock,” “stoney”). It’s still perfectly valid to describe effects as “sativa-like” or “indica-like”, as long as we remember that sativa or indica-like effects don’t necessarily coincide with a plant’s sativa or indica lineage.