Cannabis trichomes – the hair-like protuberance found on the leaves, stems, and stalks of cannabis – is the jewellery box of the cannabis plant. Trichomes hold the compounds we consider most valuable, such as THC, CBD, and other precious cannabinoids. They also contain the terpenes – those powerhouses which give the weed its beautiful aroma and flavours.
Equally as important is that it’s the trichomes that get you high.
Those trichomes – the sparkling, sticky crystals we love to see in abundance – are truly the most prized part of your nugs, and like all good valuables, they ‘bling’ for a reason.
What is less widely known is that trichomes are found on all manner of plants and are responsible for numerous functions across different plant species – for example, menthol comes from the trichomes of the peppermint plant.
Though the ‘tri’ in their name implies ‘three,’ and sure enough in the cress plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, the trichome does have three spiky heads[i], the name trichome is derived from the Greek term ‘trichoma’ meaning ‘hair’ (a trichologist is someone who studies hair and scalp care).
Cannabis trichomes can be diverse in their appearance: they can be glandular or non-glandular and can be single-cell or multicellular. Many plants hold important novel chemical secrets within their trichomes, including essential oils, and in the case of cannabis trichomes, pharmaceutical properties. It is for this reason that cannabis trichomes are so highly prized.
Cannabis trichomes were thought to exist in three different forms – bulbous, sessile, and stalked – but there has been some debate that the sessile and stalked versions may be mature and immature versions of the same type of trichome.
Recent findings by Dr. Samuel J. Livingston, of the University of British Columbia, at least suggest as much to add some validity to that claim, indicating that sessile trichomes have around eight secretory disc cells, a figure which approximately doubles on stalked trichomes, along with an increase in monoterpene-dominant terpene profiles.
After using imaging and chemical composition analysis, Dr. Livingston found that stalked trichomes are typically more abundant on mature calyces. The percentage difference correlates strongly with calyx length, which is an indication of calyx maturity. The study also showed a sizeable increase during the maturation of the calyx. [ii].
Despite presenting convincing evidence that sessile trichomes are, in fact, immature stalked trichomes, the authors point out that a small number of sessile trichomes remain on mature calyces and that this was true on every sample tested.
How this Information Helps
Until recently, it was unclear what each trichome type brought to cannabinoid and terpene levels. Bulbous trichomes are the smallest and contribute the least in terms of metabolite production.
Capitate-sessile trichomes are slightly larger and produce cannabinoids throughout the plant’s life cycle, but at lower levels than the capitate-stalked trichomes – and it’s these stalked trichomes which we prize so highly. Jam-packed with treasures, these sticky little hairs also serve to indicate when a plant is ripe for harvesting, turning from clear or an amber-to-light-brown hue in the early stages of growth to an opaque, cloudy appearance, some describe as ‘milky’ when the plant reaches maturity.
A bustling trichome coverage also typically denotes a plant-rich with THC and CBD of maximum potency, but this doesn’t mean that the longer you leave your plants, the more trichome-rich they will become. There’s a window for harvesting, which, if passed. The trichomes once again begin to darken in colour, can harm potency, so cultivators are encouraged to read up on their specific strains and learn the ways to maximise the yield.
Trichome’s Protective Properties
Trichomes are truly the gift that keeps on giving. In addition to all those fabulous cannabinoids, these treasures come armed with their own security system, protecting the plant from ultraviolet rays, insulating against frost, and even offer a degree of protection against mildew, dampness, and mould.
Better yet – trichomes also have a built-in deterrent against animal and insect attacks, namely a pungent, bitter flavour, which renders them as unappealing vegetation to many hungry pests.
Encouraging Cannbis Trichomes Production
Multiple factors influence cannabis trichome formation, from the light spectrum to nutrient uptake, watering cycles, airflow, and temperature – more or less every aspect of the environment can be a hero or a villain in determining the quality and quantity of those highly-prized hairs. Like anything precious, trichomes are fragile and so touching or contact of any kind ought to be avoided or at least minimised to allow these precious gems to develop and flourish safely.
Good knowledge of nutrients and ensuring your water supply is clean, healthy, and conducive to plant growth is essential here, and it’s generally theorised that a wide light spectrum is beneficial to the production of more trichomes on the plant.
Next time you pick up a bud, have a good look at the trichomes. Marvel at their blinging beauty, but now you know a little more about them, be sure to appreciate their awesome powers and the priceless qualities they bring to your smoke.
Follow Seedsman on Instagram for some fabulous user-submitted photos showing just how glorious cannabis trichomes can be.
We’re also running a 25% off High THC promotion right now! So if you’re looking to become a cannabis trichomes connoisseur, start growing your own today!