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What Are Trichomes and What Are They Used For?

Trichomes are the appendages found upon the surface of cannabis flowers that present the terpenes and cannabinoids found therein. With a frosty, sugar-covered appearance, trichomes are easy to identify and integral to the overall health and quality of the cannabis plant.

Ostensibly found over every inch of the cannabis plant, trichomes are largely concentrated around the flowers, leaves, and bracts of the cannabis plant. These tiny hair-like appendages mean a whole lot to the plant as well as your enjoyment of it and the high that follows.

What IS a Trichome?

Trichomes are defined as fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, and lichens. Derived from the Greek word Trichoma, meaning ‘growth of hair’, these appendages operate as factories while producing flavonoids, cannabinoids, and terpenes that make our favorite strains so unique, potent, and effective.

Trichome production can be found throughout nature in many species of plants, including carnivorous plants that use them to feed on prey. Trichomes operate as a defense mechanism in cannabis, helping to produce flowers in the wild by protecting them from insects, animals, and harmful UV rays.

Trichomes often serve as a powerful deterrent to potential animal consumption as they are bitter in taste while emitting strong aromas. 

Are There Different Kinds of Trichomes?

At a glance, trichomes are presented as Alien-like appendages pulled from the pages of a graphic novel. In practice, trichomes exist in many different forms, shapes, and sizes. 

Here are the three primary types of trichome we would like to address, today.

  • Capitate Sessile Trichomes – Larger than Bulbous Trichomes, Capitate Sessile Trichomes are more abundant than the others on our list but lack the output of Capitate-stalked trichomes.
  • Bulbous Trichomes – The smallest of the bunch, Bulbous Trichomes appear throughout the surface of the entire body of the plant. Bulbous trichomes are roughly 10 to 15 micrometers in size, making them small enough to appear as only a couple of cells.
  • Capitate-stalked Trichomes – Roughly 50 to 100 micrometers wide, these are the largest of the different trichomes on our list. Capitate-stalked trichomes can be seen by the naked eye without the assistance of a handheld device. 

Every type of trichome listed above will produce terpenes and cannabinoids. The capitate-stalked trichome will appear the most around the calyx during the budding of flowers, thus bringing the highest level of essential oils to the plant.

When Do Trichomes Typically Appear?

Trichomes will begin during cannabinoid synthesis, something that begins as the plant moves into its blooming stage. As the plant begins to produce flowers, trichomes will begin to form along the outer surface of the plant, above the ground, helping to facilitate vacuoles and plastids from the stalk to the head of the gland.

The development of trichomes and the rate at which they appear will be dependent upon the genetics of the plant as well as the environmental factors surrounding it. One way that growers can ensure the production of healthy trichomes is by making sure that their plants receive full-spectrum lighting throughout the entirety of the growing process. 

Growers will notice the change in their trichomes as the plant itself ages and begins to mature. Trichome heads will change colors from white to red, brown, and orange as they experience ripeness. Trichomes will display maturation until the point of degradation, giving growers a visible cue that their harvest is ready.

Are My Trichomes Showing Signs of Harvest?

Whether by eye or through the use of a magnifying glass, growers can watch the color of their trichome change as their plant readies itself for harvest. We’ll briefly outline the different appearances that your trichome may take as your plant grows and matures.

  • Clear Trichomes – Clear trichome development means that the plant is not ready for harvest. Clear trichome showcase a plant that is not done developing its potency.
  • Milky Trichomes – When your trichome becomes cloudy or milky in appearance, the plant is ready to be harvested. Cloudy trichome development infers peak potency and the claim that your cannabis has reached the highest levels of effect.
  • Amber Trichomes – Trichomes that have turned more amber in color tend to offer a less potent final product. Amber trichomes are said to provide more sedating effects than the other options on our list.

Trichome coloration is still the standard when it comes to determining the harvest time of specific strains. With that being said, changes can be expected from one strain to the next, so it is always important to understand what genetics you are working with.

What Factors Impact Trichome Development?

While trichome development is incredibly important to the health and vitality of the plant, there are many ways in which these trichomes may suffer. Trichomes are at risk of destruction and degradation by way of physical contact, heat, oxygen, time, light, and other signs of agitation.

There are a few ways to make sure that your trichome development continues without risk, so let’s briefly outline them together.

  • Reduced Care – Limit all physical contact with your cannabis plants, especially between skin and stalk. Limiting physical contact will help to preserve the trichome for longer.
  • Proper Technique – When you undergo the trimming, drying, and curing techniques, make sure that you are careful in your practice and application. Proper techniques can help preserve the lifespan of your trichome until you are ready to enjoy them.
  • Environmental Controls – Excess heat and a lack of oxygen and light can reduce trichome development. Don’t let the environmental factors that you can control get in your way. Utilize proper ventilation practices while diminishing potential overheating along the way.



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