What Are Trichomes?

What Are Trichomes?

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Close up of Trichomes on bud

For starters…

Trichomes are extremely helpful to cannabis plants. They play a fundamental role in weed’s psychoactive properties and protect the plant at the end of its growth cycle. When a female cannabis plant starts to flower, trichome production begins. Trichomes are the tiny crystal-like hairs that completely cover the buds. They hold all the good stuff 😉

While the crystal coating on the plant makes it beautiful to look it, these little structures help protect the plant, keeping it healthy and productive. As a start, trichomes protect weed plants from being eaten. Animals are easily deterred by the bitter taste and strong smell of the trichomes. In instances where damaging winds and fungal growth can threaten the plant, the cannabis plant’s resin glands help protect it – resin is the dust particles from the THC.

The actual definition of Trichomes stems from the Greek word “Tríchōma”. This translates to “fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae and lichens.” In other words, they are like little factories that produce varieties of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that make our favourite strain unique, potent and effective.

The different types of Trichomes

Trichomes come in many shapes and sizes, but there are three that appear the most often on weed plants.

Three types of trichomes

  1. Bulbous trichomes are the smallest type found on cannabis. It measures about 10-15 micrometers in length and is barely visible to the naked eye. They form sparsely across the surface of the weed plant. It’s tiny enough to only be comprised of a handful of cells and each one of them is made of a short “stalk”, and a gland head.  The gland swells and sometimes forms a small “bulbous” bulge on top of the membrane – this secretes resin.
  2. Capitate sessile trichomes are a medium-sized gland, slightly larger in both head and stalk when compared to the Bulbous trichomes. They measure between 25-100 micrometers in length, and covers cannabis plants more densely than bulbous trichomes.
  3. Capitate-stalked trichomes are the largest trichomes found and can be seen with the naked eye. They measure anywhere between 50-100 micrometers and appear during the flowering stage of the plant’s growth cycle. The trichome’s structure can easily be seen, the elongated stalk and swollen gland head, held together by a waxy cuticle layer. This serves as the epicenter for cannabinoid and terpenoid synthesis. This type of trichome is what most weed farmers look for when harvesting their plants. they produce the highest concentrations of the plant’s unique chemical compounds such as THC and CBD.

Inside the Trichomes

THC and other cannabinoids can only be produced in one place, the cannabis plant – more specifically, gland heads of the trichomes. This happens once the weed plant goes into flowering mode. The plant’s trichomes start to form a thin layer on the surface of the plant. The number of trichomes that are created will completely depend on the genetics of the strain and the surrounding environment.

An example of this would be using the wrong lighting. UV lighting can damage the terpene and cannabinoid synthesis. If this were the case, the plant may have lots of trichomes but because of the environmental factor – the lighting – it will prevent it from producing high amounts of cannabinoids. This then results in the weed having a lack in potency. This is another reason why it’s never safe to assume that the more trichomes, the better the bud.

In a different example where plants get a broad spectrum of light, they produce higher concentrations of cannabinoids. The stage at which a weed plant is harvested, can also affect the quality and potency of the trichomes.

A grower’s tip

Trichomes help growers gauge when it’s time to harvest. If the weed plant is flowering, the trichomes will appear cloudy or milky in colour. This is a good time to harvest if you are looking for weed that delivers an energetic, sativa-like, head high. As the plant matures by growing longer, the trichomes change colour and become more amber or brown in colour. If the plant is harvested at this stage, you will typically get more of a relaxed body high, commonly associated with Indica strains.

Growers tip on trichomes

We should note here though, that various weed strains will show their readiness for harvesting through colour, in different ways.  Be careful not to confuse the abundance of shiny crystals as time for harvesting. The colour of the stalks and heads will hint that it’s time to harvest your cannabis plant.  Too early on, and the trichomes will only contain a low percentage of THC. The same can happen if your plant matures for too long, as the cannabinoids will then start to deteriorate.

We know that trichomes are vital in the entire cultivation process of weed. Experienced farmers tend to grow cannabis with trichome preservation in mind. This basically means that you should try and avoid physical contact or agitation during the growing phase of your plant.

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