Cannabis trichomes

What Cannabis Trichomes are and How They Affect Weed Quality

Enjoying cannabis isn’t a technical pursuit, but understanding its genetics and composition is. THC content is undoubtedly important, but so are terpenes and cannabis trichomes. As consumers continue to educate themselves on cannabis, cannabis trichomes frequently come up in the conversation when quality, flavour and potency are discussed. 

Trichomes are the appendages on the surface of cannabis flowers that play an important role in the development of the cannabis plant, its buds and compounds.

That being said, if you don’t know what trichomes are, we’ve created a helpful guide for you.

In this article, we’ll discuss all you need to know about cannabis trichomes, their functions, and how to spot them. 

What are Cannabis Trichomes?


Trichomes are tiny, hair-like growths that coat the outside of certain plants, including pineapple plants, stinging nettles and cannabis. 

They are as minuscule as a few micrometres, making most of them too small to see individually without a magnifying lens. Under a microscope, they appear as tiny crystals-like bulbs covering the surface of the plant. 

If you’ve ever admired the frostiness of a particular strain, you are looking at an abundance of trichomes.

Trichomes exist in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some look like simple hairs or bristles, while others have a mushroom-like appearance, with a stalk and a spherical head, which, in cannabis plants, contains cannabinoids and terpenes

Different Types of Cannabis Trichomes

Three types of trichomes are most commonly found on cannabis plants. These varieties include bulbous, capitate sessile and capitate-stalked trichomes.

Here’s how they differ.

L to R: Stalked, sessile and bulbous glandular trichomes of the cannabis plant.

Bulbous trichomes are tiny spheres that adhere closely to the plant’s surface and are too small to see with the naked eye.

Additionally, there are capitate sessile trichomes. They are larger than bulbous but are also too small to be seen without a magnifying glass. These trichomes look a bit more mushroom-like, featuring a short stalk and head.

Capitate-stalked trichomes are the last and the biggest trichomes that can be seen with the naked eye. Like capitate sessile, capitate-stalked trichomes also feature a stalk and head. Being the largest, these contain the highest number of cannabinoids and terpenes

Keep in mind that trichomes shouldn’t be confused with pistils, which are colourful hairs that grow out of cannabis buds and are easily visible without magnification. 

So if you see small orange, purple, or red hairs popping out of your cannabis flowers, those are pistils, not trichomes.

What are the Functions of Trichomes?

Plants evolve trichomes as a defence mechanism to protect them in a number of ways. 

For example, as we mentioned above, stinging nettles have trichomes that make the stinging nettle sting. When the nettles’ trichomes are disturbed by a passing animal, they break off to reveal a small barb containing irritants that cause an itchy rash. 

As a result, animals learn not to go near the plant that makes their skin hurt, leaving the nettles to grow in peace.

Alternatively, the trichomes on cannabis plants do not contain stingers, but they do protect the plant in other ways. 

By creating a dense coating on the outside of cannabis buds, trichomes provide protection from wind, physical contact, and UV damage. 

Additionally, the resin inside trichomes is sticky and smelly, making it a deterrent for many pests.

Cannabis growers often use trichomes to determine when the bud is ready for harvesting. In fact, the transition in the trichomes’ colour indicates when the flower has reached peak ripeness.  

Young trichomes are translucent and harder to see. As the cannabis plant grows, they turn milky white, then amber, and eventually a deep red. 

The darkening of trichomes indicates plant degradation, so most farmers decide it is time to harvest when the trichomes have reached the cloudy white stage and are just starting to turn amber.

Finally, cannabis trichomes also serve as resin glands. This attribute is what excites us the most since resin contains cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids and is what kief is made of. 

Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids

the cannabis plant

If you don’t know what cannabinoids are, they are chemical compounds in cannabis that provide therapeutic and psychoactive effects. For instance, CBD and THC are the most commonly known from the 60 different cannabinoids currently being studied by scientists.  

As you might already know, THC is what gives cannabis its psychoactive effects. 

Alternatively, CBD does not have the ability to induce cannabis high but is known for its vast therapeutic effects ranging from pain-relieving to anti-inflammatory. 

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that give certain strains of cannabis their distinctive aromas. Strains that have a peppery taste, for example, are usually high in the terpene caryophyllene. Terpenes also interact with dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain and enhance the effects of cannabinoids. 

Flavonoids similarly affect taste and aroma while also contributing to the plant’s pigmentation and providing antioxidants. For more information on flavonoids, check out our guide, “What are Flavonoids & How do They Impact the Cannabis Experience?”

Why do Cannabis Strains Have Trichomes and Which Have the Most Trichomes?

A few different factors affect the abundance or lack of trichomes on a certain strain of cannabis. 

For instance, poor-quality seeds produce cannabis plants that are low in trichomes, while high-quality seeds are known to produce trichome-rich plants.

In addition to starting with premium quality seeds, knowledgeable growers use certain techniques and tools, such as growing plants under LED and UVB lights, in order to promote trichome production. At harvest time, they handle and store the cannabis flowers with the utmost care as to not disturb or damage the trichomes. 

Premium cannabis that is abundant in trichomes, rich in tasty terpenes, and bountiful in therapeutic cannabinoids provides the absolute best smoking experience for any cannabis consumer, newbie or veteran. 

Consider one of these strains to enjoy all the benefits of cannabis and cannabis trichomes.

OG Kush

With a nearly equal ratio of sativa and indica genetics, OG Kush is a true hybrid. It usually contains around 20% THC but can go as high as 27%. 

Beginners may find this strain a bit strong, but intermediate and experienced cannabis consumers will enjoy the balance of cerebral buzz with heavy relaxation that comes with smoking OG Kush. 

Sour Diesel

Sometimes called Sour D, this sativa strain is energizing, uplifting, and mood-boosting. 

It usually contains about 18-22% THC but can be grown to hit even higher levels, so new cannabis users should approach Sour Diesel with caution. 

Sour Diesel gets its name from its diesel-like aroma, which comes from the terpenes caryophyllene, limonene, and humulene.

White Widow

White Widow is a sativa-dominant hybrid that is enjoyed for its cerebral, creativity-enhancing effects. 

This strain is great for beginners as it usually clocks in around 16-18% THC but doesn’t exceed 20%. White Widow‘s fruity and herbal aroma comes from terpenes such as terpineol, terpinolene, and caryophyllene.

Cannabis Trichomes – An Essential Part of the Cannabis Experience

Monitoring trichomes is paramount in growing the best cannabis flower rich in cannabinoids and terpenes as a grower.

As a buyer, by noting the appearance of trichomes, you’ll more easily spot the difference between poor and premium quality cannabis.

All in all, whether you are a cannabis cultivator, consumer, or both, we hope this guide has helped you understand more about the importance and benefits of trichomes.

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