Whether you are new to smoking or are a cannabis veteran chances are good you have been hearing about trichomes lately. So what exactly are marijuana trichomes and what is the deal with all the fuss and fanfare surrounding them? Only recently after study and research have marijuana trichomes come into the public consciousness – fueled partially by widespread legalization and a wider social acceptance for the substance in Canada and all around the world.
There was a time not very long ago when a bag of weed was just a bag of weed to most people; even those who routinely smoked it. Nobody was much concerned with cannabis percentages let alone terpenes or trichomes – CBD was still relatively unknown outside of medical circles. Only with widespread craft growing and a legal and regulated market backed by scientific research have trichomes come to be known by the wider weed smoking public. But what are trichomes, how do trichomes function and why are they so important to the life cycle of the plant? Can they also provide a clue to home growers who would like to know when it is best to begin harvesting their crops?
Everyone loves dank sparkling buds of cannabis coated in frosty white shiny sticky little specks. Typically every stoner is at least aware that these “crystals” as most refer to them are an indicator of the quality and potency of the cannabis as a whole, These are what is known as trichomes and they are actually present on a vast array of plants of all kinds! It is only the trichomes weed is coated in that contain the potent THC which provides the medicinal and intoxicating effects the plant is known for so don’t think anything else with trichomes is worth smoking!
Only marijuana trichomes or that is the trichomes weed – or at least high quality potent craft grown weed – is covered in which makes it sparkle and shine will get you stoned and provide the medicinal benefits of THC and CBD. This is because they are actually the very factories producing the myriad cannabinoids and flavonoids which gives cannabis the smell, taste and potency it is best known for.
The production of trichomes is a common one found throughout nature and they can serve a wide range of useful functions for the plants that host them. Some carnivorous plants have trichomes for instance that aid in trapping or digesting their prey!
Marijuana trichomes also serve as a defense mechanism for the plant protecting the growing buds and leaves from insects and fungus.Trichomes on weed are also a great indicator of when the plant is ready for harvest. The presence of amber trichomes covering some but not all of the buds is usually an indicator that it is time to harvest your grow!
The Different Kinds of Trichomes
Now that we understand what are trichomes and about how marijuana trichomes function and how amber trichomes are harvest time indicators we have a better understanding of what the fuss over trichomes is about! But what kinds or trichomes can be found on the cannabis plant and what are their various purposes?
Bulbous trichomes are the runt of the litter appearing all over the plant at a tiny 10-15 micrometers! Spot them if you can!
Capitate sessile trichomes are a bit bigger and have a visible head and stalk structure to them. This variety of trichomes cover the plant and are much more plentiful and visible than the bulbous tiny trichomes.
Finally there are capitate-stalked trichomes which can range anywhere from 50 – 100 micrometres in size making them visible to the naked eye. These are the crystals all stoners have come to know and love. They consist of a stalk with a large glad head which is the center of cannabinoid and terpenoid synthesis.
All three varieties of trichomes produce cannabinoids and are essential to the function of the cannabis plant but only the capitate-stalked trichomes are visible and coat the budding flowers giving the appearance of sparkling crystals.
Trichomes & Harvest Time
As the cannabis plant begins to bloom cannabinoid synthesis within the trichomes takes place. As the buds begin to flower thes trichomes form and begin to transport the necessary elements from the plant to the head of the trichome stalk. Cells within the head of the stalk metabolize these elements to produce the precursors which will eventually become cannabinoids
Just how may trichomes are produced and how quickly they appear will be determined by both the genetics of the plant and also various environmental factors. The highest quantity of trichomes isn’t always indicative of the highest production of cannabinoids or terpenes in the plant but this process can be manipulated using ultra violet light. As a general rule almost all strains of cannabis benefit from being exposed to a broad spectrum of light during the growing process.
The life cycle of a trichome on the cannabis plant is roughly synchronized with the life of the cannabis plant itself so knowing the signs the trichomes are telling you is an essential step in understanding the home growing process. As the cannabis plant grows and flowers and becomes ready for harvest the trichomes will change from clear to a frosty white and finally turn cloudy and amber coloured. When most of the trichomes have started to turn amber the plant is ready for harvest!
The amber colouration indicates that the trichome and thus the plant has reached its maximu possible potency level and will only degrade in quality the longer it is left unharvested. As you can imagine this is a very important thing to understand and be able to monitor if you would like to grow your own cannabis at home. Of course not all strains of cannabis are identical and some come into maturation differently so make sure you know the properties of your particular strain before attempting to grow it.
During the growing and harvesting process the trichomes are incredibly delicate and at risk of degradation or destruction if the plants are mishandled or exposed to heat, light, too much oxygen or simply left for too long of a time without care or harvesting.
Proper handling, curing and caring procedures can mitigate this damage to the plant and these very delicate and important little cannabinoid factories that can be found all over your favourite buds.
Of course it is never possible to completely halt the natural process of degradation that acts upon the trichomes unless they are extracted into one of the many available concentrates, waxes or oils that have become increasingly popular over recent years. This is because by extracting and preserving the trichomes in this manner they can be stored indefinitely without degradation, providing the most potent smoke possible even after long periods of storage after harvest.
Whether you enjoy them on the bud or in an extraction there is no denying that cannabis trichomes have brought a lot of pleasure and comfort into human lives. Not only that but they are also a source of precious medical compounds and many varieties of extraction are also made and utilized for medicinal purposes.
Trichomes also offer their essential defensive properties to the cannabis plant as a whole ensuring that the plant survives long enough to flower and reproduce. Without question trichomes are not only essential to the human experience and enjoyment of cannabis products but also to their very existence in the first place.
The sticky coating of trichomes acts as a deterrent against predators that would eat and destroy the plant, The smell they produce which we have also learned to enjoy is also a powerful deterrent against pests and predators of all kinds. There is also evidence to suggest that the sticky and thick trichome coating protects the plant from the harmful effects of UV rays
Overall trichomes are undeniably fascinating and and essential part of understanding cannabis as a whole for anyone studying it in a laboratory setting or even just for the casual first time grower at home. We hope this brief overview has made clear the role and reason that trichomes are so important in the world of cannabis today!
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