The science of cannabis will amaze you. There’s far more going on behind the scenes of that little green nug in your fingertips than you can imagine. Take a closer look and notice the sticky, shiny substance with a layer of frosting that smells so good. They’re trichomes, and we have a lot to thank them for.
The microscopic mushroom-like protrusions are responsible for producing the numerous cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes that make your marijuana what it is.
Cannabis trichomes determine the potency, flavor, and aroma combination that makes each weed strain so unique.
Join us as we put trichomes under the microscope and investigate what makes them so important. Learn all there is to know about the cannabis trichomes that make your bud sticky icky.
What are trichomes?
The origins of the word trichome come from the Greek word “Tríchōma,” meaning “growth of hair.” Don’t worry. Your weed isn’t hairy; its name simply describes how these resinous growths look under a magnifying glass.
Try it yourself, and you’ll see fields of thin stalks with mushroom heads. Together they form a frosty blanket of white over your bud.
What are trichomes? A simple way to understand trichomes on weed is to consider them as cannabinoid factories, churning out THC or CBD-rich resins. They’re found all over the ganja plant but are most abundant on the flowers and sugar leaves.
What do trichomes look like?
As we’ve touched upon previously, a weed trichome is a resin gland. The naked eye can’t see them. Instead, you can identify their presence by the crystalized concentrates on the surface of your pot.
Your favorite hash, shatters, and waxes all come from extracting this substance from the trichome.
Zooming in, you’ll see small hair-like strands finishing with a mushroom-shaped ‘head.’ They’re tiny at no bigger than 100 microns wide. What surprises most people is that trichomes have evolved to serve us with many benefits, but cannabis plants only use them to defend themselves.
Other lesser-known facts include the various categories of cannabis trichomes. Each has unique biochemical functions and is different in size and shape. Read on to learn more about this later.
When reading about weed, it’s easy to mistake pistils and trichomes as both are referred to often as ‘hair.’ Trichomes aren’t visible to the naked eye, while pistils that extend out of the calyxes of flowers are.
Cannabinoid synthesis is the process in which trichomes begin to form as your weed plants start to bloom flowers.
At this point, trichomes function to move plastids and vacuoles from the stalks and out the gland. During this, cells within the trichome will metabolize. This process leads to the formation of unique cannabinoids specific to that strain of cannabis.
As the pot plant continues to mature, so will its trichomes. It’s an invaluable source of information for cultivators to monitor.
It can display the first signs of maturation turning into degradation and therefore aids the farmer’s decision to harvest for optimal yield size and potency.
As your marijuana plant matures, you’ll notice the trichomes’ stages through their opacity. It’ll evolve from a translucent liquid to cloudy white, and finally, amber trichomes will appear.
The latter signifies that the cannabis plant has hit its peak of maturity and is beginning to fade.
With that said, it’s crucial to understand that some trichomes will display maturity at varying rates and in different ways.
Trichome production directly relates to the specific strain of cannabis your growing and the environment in which it’s kept. Nevertheless, monitoring the color of marijuana trichomes is the industry standard for timing harvests.
What are the different types of trichomes on weed?
Trichomes can come in all shapes and sizes. While all secrete cannabinoids, some produce more than others helping to form rich concentrations of THC and CBD.
You can check out the types of trichomes present in your marijuana plant by using a chart.
Below we outline the three most commonly found on cannabis.
Bulbous marijuana trichomes are only 10–15 micrometers wide, making them the smallest of all the types.
They’re found across the entire marijuana plant, and unlike their cousins, they don’t even have a stalk. Under the microscope, they look like tiny raindrops resting on your nugs.
These types of trichomes have a stem and head and are a little larger than their bulbous brethren.
In comparison, they’re more plentiful but still can’t compete with the third category.
The most colossal of trichomes are capitate-stalked. They’re so large in comparison to the others that the naked eye can see them.
They can be as big as 100 micrometers wide, and their structures are the most complex out of the varieties.
What is the trichomes function?
Trichomes throughout nature take on many physical forms and boast a variety of functions. In cannabis, their main purpose is to defend the crop.
When female weed plants produce flowers, they become vulnerable. A myriad of insects, wildlife, and environmental threats such as UV rays can harm your weed.
The bitter taste of trichomes acts as a deterrent to any animal wishing to take a bite, and their stench makes them seem unpalatable to insects. They also play a key role in protecting the plant from some fungal growth and strong weather.
What do trichomes do?
Beyond the plant’s attempts to deter pests and protect itself from environmental threats, marijuana trichomes have many benefits to consumers and growers.
Consumers especially should appreciate the role of these amazing little creatures. They’re responsible for the cannabinoids and terpenes that create the kaleidoscope of flavors, potencies, and aromas available throughout the hundreds of cannabis strains.
Trichomes are also a way for the plant to communicate with the farmer.
Observing the change in color during the flowering stage can give the grower indication of the crop’s chemical composition.
Experienced cultivators will know exactly when to harvest for optimal cannabinoid content and effects.
5 techniques to boost cannabis trichome production
Every grower is searching for the key to boosting cannabis trichome creation. Nowadays, there are many tried and tested ways.
Each puts your weed plant under enough stress that it pumps out more trichomes to protect itself but without damaging its development.
The best part; these techniques are simple to do.
Light is the underpinning element to everything related to growing cannabis. Adequate levels are vital for the development of impressive concentrations of cannabis trichomes.
However, growers have found that different types of light at certain times ramp up the resin production.
One of the main jobs of marijuana trichomes is to protect the plant from are UV rays. Bump up the UV in your grow room, and plants will kick out more resin to defend themselves.
Light-emitting ceramic lights are renowned in the cannabis world for stimulating growth and yield sizes. However, the UV-B they give off also triggers the plant’s protection drive resulting in an overproduction of trichomes.
The last attempt at bolstering cannabis trichome production close to harvesting consists of depriving your plants of light altogether.
Many veteran growers plunge their girls into darkness for the last 24–48 hours in hopes to trick them into thinking the seasons have changed. The crops, as a result, speed up flower and resin growth.
Getting your grow temperature just right is another important factor in trichome production.
Make it too cold, and you’ll impair the metabolism of your plant.
Too hot, and the terpenes will degrade faster.
The optimal window is between 21 and 26°C.
Lowering the humidity in your grow area will put your plant under stress and kickstart its defensive mechanisms.
Reduce your relative humidity to around 30% during late bloom to encourage cannabis trichomes to pump out those all-important resins.
Physical training is also known to cause some level of stress to your plants. Super cropping is especially beneficial. It involves pinching and breaking open the branches to redirect them.
It may sound traumatic, but it opens up your cannabis plant for more growth for bigger crops and allows aeration.
The damages that occur trigger the weed’s need to defend itself; thus, more trichomes appear. Remember, when training your plant, always be careful not to touch your buds. Those lovely little hairs can easily break and fall away.
Another training technique in the veteran manual is cold-shocking your plants. During the late flowering stage, flush your cannabis with ice water. Doing this puts your plants under more ‘safe’ stress and adds a final layer of trichomes to your buds.
If you want to take your cannabis growing to the next level, bump up cannabis resin production with supplements.
There are several that have proven results, and they also have many other benefits to cannabis health.
- Lactic Acid Bacteria: Adding LAB to your potting medium will introduce beneficial microbes responsible for breaking down sugars and converting them into short-chain fatty acids. Your weed plant can use these to create more trichomes with thick cannabinoids and terpenes.
- Molasses: Molasses is packed with vitamins, minerals, and sugars. It’s essential for quality soil and provides cannabis with essential nutrients and friendly microbes in the rhizosphere.
- Amino Acids: These acids are known as the foundation of proteins. Chains of amino acids link together to form proteins used to create plant tissues like cannabis trichomes.
To keep learning about techniques to boost trichomes production, check our Homegrown PotCast about it:
Which cannabis plants produce more trichomes on buds?
As before mentioned, trichome production will depend on two elements — the environmental parameters your weed is grown in and the strain of cannabis you choose.
How you grow your weed is down to you. To increase your chances of producing bountiful resinous buds, buy cannabis seeds of the below strains that are most famous for their trichomes.
- White Widow strain;
- Chemdawg strain;
- Chernobyl strain;
- G13 strain.
How to inspect your cannabis trichomes
To get up close and personal with your trichomes, you’re going to need a few tools.
As most aren’t visible to the naked eye, it’s vital you take a closer look to predict when your trichomes are ready to harvest.
- Jeweller’s loupe: This bit of kit is great for zooming in on tiny objects and providing a clear view. Often they have built-in lights, which increases the quality of the image. It’s a firm favorite for those wanting to take pictures with their phones to track your progress.
- Microscopes: You have the choice between handheld or digital. The latter links to your laptop for clear zoomed-in images, which you can take snapshots of. In comparison, handheld ones don’t need power and can be taken with you wherever you go.
- Macro Lenses: Macros lenses are a popular choice for modern growers. They augment the zoom of your smartphone camera. These lenses are easy to use. All you need to do is clip it to the side of your device over the back-facing camera. They allow you to take close-up images of cannabis trichomes that store straight onto your phone.
Which trichomes to look at when inspecting them?
To receive the message about potency loud and clear from your weed plant, you need to observe the marijuana trichomes on your flowers.
As they mature, they’ll evolve through trichomes stages.
- Clear: The first cannabis trichomes will appear as your plant begins the flowering stage. These will be immature and translucent in appearance.
- Cloudy: As your marijuana plant moves through the flowering stage towards harvest, trichomes will appear milky and opaque. It’s a clear sign that they’re expressing high levels of terpenes and THC. Harvest your flowers sooner rather than later for an energetic cerebral high.
- Amber: When the end of the flowering stage is in sight, your trichomes will take on an amber hue. Your weed plant is starting to degrade, and less THC is present. Instead, cannabinol will take over. CBN contributes to a more soothing full-body high.
- Mixed: Between the two previous stages, trichomes will be a mix-match of both cloudy and amber-hued. Many cultivators choose to harvest at this moment for buds that provide a balanced high between body and mind. At this stage, THC will be high but will have a touch of CBN too.
For extra support in spotting these changes, you can use a handy trichomes chart.
Give a round of applause to cannabis trichomes and the crucial role they play in protecting your crops from threats. Further still, give them a standing ovation for providing us with countless medicinal and therapeutic compounds unique to this wonder plant.
Marijuana farmers take preserving and boosting trichome production to new levels, and for a good reason. These hair-like growths hold the keys to unlock the mysteries behind the medical properties of cannabis.
They’re small but mighty, and without them, marijuana would be like any other garden plant.
Still, have some questions?
Check out our answers to the most common trichome-related queries below.
When does trichome production start?
Trichome production starts when your plants reach the flowering stage. They then mature alongside your marijuana, evolving in color as they reach peak THC levels before degrading.
To ensure you harvest when your buds are at optimal levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, follow a trichome color chart.
Do trichomes get you high?
Yes. They are the epicenter of THC and CBD production. You can get high from them at any stage of their life cycle. However, you’ll experience a difference in effects depending on when you harvest them.
Cloudy cannabis trichomes give you an uplifting and head-stoned high.
Amber ones provide a body high that’s often couch locking and induces sleepiness. A mix of the two offers a balanced and complex experience.
How to see trichomes without a magnifying glass?
Thanks to modern technology, a magnifying glass and other old-school methods aren’t your only options.
If you want a more sophisticated view of your buds and their trichomes, opt for a digital microscope or macro lens. The latter is relativity cheap and very easy to use.
About the author: Derek LaRose
Also known as Kronic from The Cannabis Kronicles, Derek LaRose is a young ambitious cultivator and a staple educator for indoor cultivation.