Trichomes 101

Trichomes are tiny little crystals that cover the leaves, buds, stems, & stalks of cannabis.  Under a microscope, trichomes (from the Greek word “Tríchōma,” meaning “growth of hair”) have a mushroom-like appearance & look like something out of a science fiction novel. Inside each trichrome is a little factory that produces “the good stuff” – a viscous oil that contains hundreds of cannabinoids, terpenes, & flavonoids that make our favorite cannabis strains potent, unique, & effective.

Trichomes are produced by the cannabis plant as a defense mechanism.  They deter animals from eating the plant because of the bitter taste & the strong smell renders flowers unpalatable.  They also protect the plants from damaging winds & even varieties of fungal growth.

There are 2 types of trichomes – glandular & non-glandular.  I’m focusing on glandular, as they produce cannabis resin.  Glandular trichomes fall into 1 of 3 categories: Bulbous, Capitate Sessile, & Capitate-stalked.  All produce cannabinoids.  However, Capitate-stalked trichomes, the largest of the trichomes, produces the highest concentration of cannabinoids, terpenes & flavonoids. These are the only trichomes that are visible to the naked eye (giving buds a “frosty” appearance) & are concentrated on the female flower parts.  The rate & concentration at which trichomes are produced depends on plant’s genetics & environmental factors.

Trichomes also tell farmers when it’s time to harvest. At their peak, trichomes change from clear & translucent to cloudy white. This transition represents its peak ripeness, & it’s the point when the trichome has reached full maturity. Beyond this point, trichomes will begin to degrade. Whether alive on a plant or harvested, trichomes are incredibly volatile & can be negatively affected by physical contact, agitation, heat, light, oxygen & time. 

Cannabis trichomes deserve recognition for their essential roles.  Not only do they protect cannabis from potential harms of the world, they also provide a one-of-a-kind production facility for hundreds of medicinal & therapeutically beneficial compounds exclusive to this amazing plant. 

Photo Credit: Strain Hunters via Instagram

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