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

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

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...

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