When it comes to the marijuana plant and the buds it produces, there’s much more than meets the eye. If you’ve ever bought sativa or indica seeds online and grown your own, you’ve come across trichomes on weed.
These tiny crystal-like dots across the leaves and nugs are shiny and sticky, but why are they there? What do they do to those juicy nugs, and how can you use them to your benefit?
Discover what these little specks are, the different types, and what to do with them below as we explore the sparkly world of trichomes.
Tríchōma is a Greek word meaning “growth of hair” and is where the frosted crystals got their name. If you look under a microscope, cannabis trichomes appear like tiny mushroom-looking protuberances.
They may seem like something from a sci-fi flick, but they play a crucial role in your weed plants’ life. Trichomes work like factories to produce cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes that determine your marijuana’s potency, fragrance, taste, and effects.
These little specks serve as cannabis’ defense mechanism. In the wild, budding flowers are vulnerable to insects, animals, and the sun’s UV rays. Trichomes deter predators with their bitter taste and pungent aroma.
They also protect plants from wind damage and fungal growth. Trichomes help your crop maintain optimal surface humidity and prevent it from drying out.
Marijuana trichomes come in various forms—three main types usually appear on cannabis.
- Bulbous trichomes: These are the smallest variation and cover the surface of the entire crop. They only reach 10–15 micrometers, which is only as big as a few cells.
- Capitate sessile trichomes: This variety is a little bigger and includes a stalk and head—much like a classic mushroom shape. Find these on the underside of the fan and sugar leaves.
- Capitate-stalked trichomes: The largest trichome type is the only one visible to the naked eye at 50–100 micrometers wide. They also look like mushrooms. The gland head of this kind is the epicenter for cannabinoid and terpenoid synthesis.
Capitate-stalked trichomes are found in abundance on your flowering nugs and produce the highest concentration of essential oils.
Trichomes don’t appear on cannabis from the beginning of its growth. On healthy crops, the tiny crystals start to form during early flowering. They begin to show up on the outer surface of the foliage and stalk.
As your plant ages, trichomes form on the buds and appear opaque at first. With time, they go a milky white before turning amber.
The weed trichomes’ color is an excellent indicator of when to harvest the buds. The milky white tone means their ideal for plucking. If they’ve gone amber, the nugs’ potency is already declining.
There are a few ways to encourage more trichomes to appear on your cannabis and boost the final bud quality.
- Pick high THC strains that are already predisposed to produce more trichomes. High CBD cultivars used for pain don’t have the genetics to get the desired results.
- Use optimal lighting. As weed produces trichomes to protect it from UV rays, it does the same when you provide more light and spectrums.
- Ensure your plant has the ideal environment to thrive. In the last 2–3 weeks before harvest, adjust humidity to 30–40%.
- Certain supplements—like nitrogen and phosphorous—claim to boost trichome production. Give your crop the right mix of macro and micronutrients in the last weeks of flowering for the best results.
- Some growers say a day or two of complete darkness before harvest increases trichomes and improves their flavor. Keep the fan on if you do this to avoid mold.
You know how to germinate weed seeds and raise the plants to produce fat, juicy buds. You probably look forward to consuming the nugs in a joint or baking them in edibles, but why not go further?
Turn THC trichomes into various concentrates to get the most bang for your buck with your marijuana plants. Different extraction techniques exist to gather the desirable compounds from the trichome glands.
Many home growers prefer to use physical separation techniques to break and remove the crystals by shaking or pressing buds. Common examples include bubble hash, kief, and dry sift.
These three methods work similarly by sieving the glands through increasingly finer screens before turning them into the final product.
Chemical extraction techniques are most common among commercial concentrate producers. These methods use a chemical solvent and dissolve the trichomes to remove them from the plant. It’s the most efficient technique but trickier to try at home.
The trichomes on weed are much more important than most people think. They protect your plant and buds from various environmental stressors and give it that delectable flavor and fragrance.
If you’re intrigued to watch these tiny crystals develop, why not grow your own weed? Encourage trichome production with our tips to get the most from your cannabis crop. Use the glands to make concentrate and enjoy the potent effects.
Douglas Kester, a cannabis growing expert at I49 Seed Bank. He has been working in the weed industry for more than 10 years. During that period, he built up a vast experience and depth of expertise in this field. Douglas has a detailed understanding of every aspect of marijuana, from its cultivation and species to the effects it brings. He’s also up to date on all the cannabis-related legislation nuances.