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Cannabis Plants 101: A Quick Guide to Trichomes

If you have an interest in plants, you will probably have heard of trichomes. Those who buy cannabis buds regularly or grow their own realize that these are very important parts of the plant.

Take a closer look at any flowering plant and you’ll see thousands of tiny crystalized dots covering the buds and the leaves. They often have a stickiness and pungent aroma.

These are the trichomes and they’re pretty interesting. The great news is that our understanding of trichomes has grown in recent years, as any expert cannabis seed grower will be able to tell you. If your new to growing your own plants, this quick guide should give you the facts you need to harvest a good crop.

What Are Trichomes?

Trichomes are found on all plants. They’re very small appendages that form in flowers and on leaves. The name trichome comes from the Greek which translates into ‘fine hairs’ and that’s a pretty apt description of what they look like. If you have a microscope and can get to look at these features a little closer, however, you’ll see they have a distinctly mushroom shape with a slightly bulbous top.

Each tiny trichome on a weed plant, however, is a manufacturing powerhouse, producing a whole range of different cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. If you ever wondered what contributed most to the potency of your cannabis plant, look no further than the not so humble trichome.

That’s why novice growers are always advised to take special care not to disturb the trichomes too much when they are harvesting.  

What is the Purpose of Trichomes?

It depends on the plant. If you have a Venus flytrap in your home, you won’t be surprised to learn that the trichomes here are used to attract prey. Flowers and trichomes are also used to attract insects so that pollination can occur. When you walk into a room where there are cannabis plants growing, you will usually smell a distinctive aroma. This is in large produced by the trichomes which are also quite sticky in nature.

When it comes to the cannabis plant, trichomes are a little more complicated. They are defense mechanism. In the wild, cannabis can be attacked by a wide range of insects and the trichomes work to keep the harmful ones away. They protect the plant from environmental threats such as UV rays as well as problems such as mildew, damp, frost and mold. Trichomes have a bitter taste which also makes them unpalatable for many animals.

This is all well and good but you’re probably more interested in the cannabis part of trichome development. This happens as soon as the plants start to flower and is truly a miracle of biology. Without it you wouldn’t have THC, CBD, flavonoids and terpenes in such abundance.

The Types of Trichome You Find in Cannabis

As with anything to do with plants, there are a variety of different trichomes that all have different functions. When it comes to cannabis, however, there are three that seem to be more important and more prevalent. These are:

  • Capitate-Stalked Trichomes: These are the largest you’ll find on the plant and the ones that you are normally able to see without a microscope. They have a fairly large bulbous head which is full of cannabis goodness.
  • Capitate-Sessile Trichomes: These are smaller and produce cannabinoids but not in the same quantity. Think of them as the second-string team, quite good but not likely to win the championship or give you a great high.
  • Bulbous Trichomes: These are pretty small, less than a few microns across and have little value because many are composed of just a few cells. They do produce cannabinoids but far, far less than the other two types.

As you might expect, the bigger the trichome, the more oil and cannabis resin you are going to get out of your plant. Squeeze these gently between your fingers and you will quickly feel that oily consistency and smell that pungent aroma.

How Trichomes Develop

When your cannabis plant reaches the flowering stage, the trichomes will start to appear and burst into life. They form in many places where the plant is above ground, including the flowers and leaves and, when in abundance, they look like tiny crystals. Changes start to happen inside the bulbous head of the trichomes while the beginnings of what we recognize as cannabis metabolize.

Obviously, if you are trying to grow cannabis, you may think encouraging as many trichomes as possible is going to be important. Partly, trichome concentration is determined by the genetics. Different plants have different concentrations. But another factor is also what happens in the environment – the amount of light, the weather conditions (if growing outside) and the nutrition are all going to have an effect.

It’s time to issue one word of warning here: High concentrations of trichomes don’t always translate to more cannabinoids. It’s worth finding out more about the strain you are trying to grow and ways to maximize yield. There’s a happy medium with most cannabis seed strains that you need to find to get a good crop you can then dry and cure.

Focusing on things like the quality of light can have an effect on cannabinoid production. It’s largely accepted if you can provide a wider spectrum of light you should encourage more ‘potent’ trichomes.

How to Get More Trichomes

Most cannabis growing experts will tell you there is an optimum point when you need to harvest your crop. That’s when the trichomes are at the most abundant at least in terms of cannabis content. Potency will grow once flowering starts but will begin to degrade at a certain point. A clear indication that you are reaching the maximum yield and should harvest, is when the trichomes start to change color and begin to become translucent, milky and then amber in color. Much beyond this stage and you’ll begin to lose cannabis power.

Another thing that cannabis growers need to understand is that trichomes are really, really fragile. Even when they are growing on the plant, you need to be careful how you handle them, especially if your crop requires training or controlling in some way. Things that can effect the trichomes and their cannabinoid content include agitation and touching, the temperature, the amount of light, even the level of oxygen in your growing area.

Don’t forget that time is also a factor. Don’t leave your harvest too long.

Here are our top suggestions for maintaining your plant and getting the most from your harvest:

  • Greatly reduce the amount you touch or have contact with the plant – in other words, unless training is required, let it grow and don’t disturb. Follow this simple rule: When in doubt, leave alone.
  • The moment that you will have a lot of contact with your cannabis plant is at harvest time. It can be tempting to wade in and cut away enthusiastically, especially if this is your first crop. Our advice is to do this slowly and gently, paying special attention to not disturbing the trichomes.
  • Another factor that you’ll need to take into account is the drying and curing process. Some experienced growers use this moment to extract the valuable cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids to protect them. That can include processes such as dry sifting as well as making concentrates. A lot will depend on the kit and room you have. If you prefer traditional bud, don’t worry. If you are handling everything gently you may lose some trichomes but you’ll still end up with a great cured product at the end.
  • If you want to get involved in preserving trichomes as much as possible, it’s worth sitting down with a professional cannabis grower and picking their brains. Experience will obviously improve your growing technique, however, and that should be enough to produce a great crop, even from just one cannabis plant.
  • For those who are just starting to grow their own seeds, it’s worth learning as much as you can about trichomes. There’s a lot of information online and the more you understand the better you’ll be at cultivating and harvesting your crop.

Trichomes are one of nature’s more amazing creations. They not only deliver pungent aromas and fight off insects but also provide a powerful punch of CBD or THC, terpenes and flavonoids. All that while only being about the size of a pin head. If you are searching for great seeds to grow your first cannabis crop, at Seedsman we have a huge range of strains. Check out our catalogue today

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.


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