Have you ever inspected a cannabis flower closely to admire the tiny shining crystals all over the buds and leaves? These shiny-looking crystals are known as cannabis trichomes, and they are what provide a strong and distinct smell and potency to the cannabis strain.
Whether you are an expert of all things regarding cannabis plants or just beginning to dip your toes, there are a handful of terms to know, such as cannabinoids, terpenes, and (of course), trichomes. These terms are important to distinguish in the world of the cannabis plant because they all have specific functions.
However, in this article, we will go into detail about trichomes, what they are made of, their function, and much more!
What is a Trichome?
A trichome is defined as “fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, lichens, and certain protists.” The term “trichome” originates from the Greek word “Tríchōma,” which means “growth of hair.” As we look under a microscope at these trichomes, we can see the very fine, hair-like features of the cannabis plant.
When we look at a cannabis plant, we may notice a group of tiny little crystals on the outside. They may be sticky and pack a powerful aroma. These crystal-looking hairs are the trichomes, and they provide a few different functions for the cannabis plant, such as producing cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids which bring out the potency of the plant.
What Are Cannabis Trichomes?
Cannabis trichomes serve many different functions, such as protecting the cannabis plant against, preditors, UV rays, strong weather conditions, and fungal spores.
In addition to protecting the cannabis plant, trichomes produce rich terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids that bring out the aromas and potency we experience with CBD flower. Trichomes have some advantageous properties that provide beneficial and soothing effects.
What Are Trichomes Made of?
The trichomes that we see on the exterior of cannabis flowers are made of hairs, glandular hairs, scales, and papillae. These sticky little appendages grow on several plants such as cannabis, algae, and lichens.
Trichomes form when the plant is in its vegetation state above-ground, beginning to transport vacuoles and plastids from the plant’s stalk into the gland head. From here, the cells in the gland head will metabolize and form what we know as cannabinoids.
The rate at which the cannabis plant produces trichomes varies due to environmental factors. Plants with higher concentrations of trichomes don’t always contain the highest concentration of cannabinoids or terpenes. Generally, plants that have access to a broader spectrum of light can produce higher concentrations of cannabinoids.
The lifestyle of a trichome is similar to a parabola as it matures when the plant is growing and then degrades as the plant begins its final stages of maturation. Trichomes display their maturation by changing opacity from a translucent state to a cloudy or hazy white, concluding with an amber color.
The transition of the color of a trichome represents its peak ripeness, which gives farmers the sign to begin harvest. After this, the cannabis may begin to degrade and will not be in ideal condition for harvest. Although each strain of cannabis may vary in trichomes and display maturation differently, the coloration is generally the same across the board.
The main catalysts that can affect the harvesting of trichomes and risk destruction are the following:
- Physical touch
All of these elements affect the quality of trichomes, so it is always best to handle the cannabis flowers with care during any propagating or harvesting. Also, limit physical contact and avoid agitating the cannabis flower to preserve the trichomes for a longer period.
What Do Trichomes Do?
Trichomes serve many different purposes, including protecting the plant, providing the strong aroma we are familiar with, and much more. Trichomes are also the bridge of communication between the grower and the plant by demonstrating when to harvest. In the early stages of growth, the trichomes are small and clear. But as the plant matures, the resin inside the trichomes will become opaque and change into a pale yellow color.
It is important to understand the distinction between trichomes and pistils of a plant. The pistils are the small hairs that attract and collect pollen, while the trichomes are the sticky crystals that cover the flower and smaller leaves of the cannabis plant. However, the pistils indicate a plant’s maturity as they’ll turn into an amber color when the plant is ready to be harvested.
Trichomes defend the cannabis plant from unwanted prey in the wild such as insects and animals. In fact, Trichomes deter other animals away because of their bitter taste, making the plant unpleasant to eat. Trichomes also protect the plant from strong winds and a variety of fungal growth.
As the plant develops, trichomes become the site of cannabinoid synthesis. This is the stage where the cannabinoids and terpenes of the plant are made. CBG is the precursor to most cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. Enzymes help break down and modify the CBG to form other cannabinoids.
Trichomes also have a major role in the creation of terpenes. As the plant develops, the aromas become less bitter overtime when the flavonoids are eventually developed towards the end of the flower cycle. A fully mature cannabis plant will have hints of fruity or floral scents compared to the bitterness in the early growing stages.
How Do Trichomes Affect Cannabis?
The way the trichomes affect the cannabis plant is through its creation of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Each of these has a specific job that eventually comes to fruition when making most CBD products.
More than 100 known cannabinoids come from cannabis plants, such as THC, CBD, and many more. Cannabinoids provide euphoric and soothing effects by interacting with cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in our bodies. This interaction supports the endocannabinoid system (ECS), contributing to our homeostasis (internal balance) and overall wellbeing. The ECS is a regulatory system that manages many functions such as sleep, mood, appetite, and much more.
The terpenes from cannabis flowers give it the flavor and aroma that we are familiar with. Terpenes also work with cannabinoids to bring about the “entourage effect.” The terpenes bind to certain receptors and trigger the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Flavonoids are compounds that help the plant form its unique color, taste, and smell. Flavonoids are what provide the flower with its sweet and distinct smell.
How Many Trichomes Are in Cannabis?
Three types of glandular trichomes are present in the cannabis plant. There are bulbous trichomes, capitate sessile trichomes, and capitate-stalked trichomes. These three trichomes vary in shapes and sizes, appearing in different forms on the cannabis plant.
Common Cannabis Trichomes
As stated, three trichomes linger on the cannabis plant. All three of these trichomes are important because they help produce cannabinoids, which bring about many soothing benefits that we are very familiar with. Let’s go over the three trichomes: bulbous trichomes, capitate sessile trichomes, and capitate-stalked trichomes.
- Bulbous trichomes: Bulbous trichomes are the smallest of trichomes and are only visible through a microscope. They usually measure around 10 to 15 microns. To fully understand how small this is, the width of an average human hair is about 70 microns.
- Capitate sessile trichomes: Capitate sessile trichomes are slightly larger than bulbous trichomes measuring about 20 to 30 microns. Capitate sessile trichomes are a mushroom shape with a trichome “head” attached to the plant.
- Capitate-stalked trichomes: Capitate-stalked trichomes are the largest of the three trichomes and are visible to the human eye. These trichomes measure out to about 200 to 300 microns tall. They are made from epidermal and hypodermic cells and are have a spherical resin gland at the tip.
Final Thoughts – Cannabis Trichomes
The world of cannabis plants seems extensive with the intricate process of harvesting cannabis flowers, the distilling process, and the cannabis trichomes. But it is important to understand the different types of trichomes, what they look like, and why they are important to the overall process of cannabis to fully appreciate the final product of a CBD roll or flower.