The Importance of Cannabis Trichomes

In the wild ride that is marijuana cultivation and development, harvesting ripe bud is definitely the “dive drop”. The culmination of seemingly endless weeks of waiting and caring for your plant. However, it is crucial that you don’t let eagerness take over.

When it comes to harvesting, the key to proper timing is watching the development of the trichomes. In the unlikely case you have never heard of them in the past, the trichomes are the “frosting” atop marijuana buds. These sticky sparkling hair-like growths –that are almost inconspicuous with the naked eye- hold nearly all of a cannabis plant’s resin. Needless to say, they are crucial for a number of reasons. In this article, we will try to approach them one by one.

The Science Behind Trichomes

In the beginning, there was cannabis. A plant that struggled for survival and propagation, like every life-form that existed on earth. Its sole goal was to nurture seeds and spread its gene to eternity. Trichomes (originating from the Greek word τρίχωμα, that means “growth of hair”) that covered cannabis buds are a plant’s defense mechanism: they are there to offer protection from predators, harmful light, and fungi. Trichomes and resin can be found on every other plant, but there’s a catch: the trichomes found on cannabis contain high amounts of THC, a compound that makes humans high as a kite.

But it’s not only THC that can be traced in the trichomes. Basically, active cannabinoids, like CBN, CBD and of course, terpenes are concentrated more on the trichomes than any other part of the plant (that’s why male plants are not as useful besides breeding). In short, these tiny precious glands, are a shiny wonder to behold. Although you are definitely going to need a magnifying glass for that, it is still a wonderful experience.

At first, it was believed that cannabinoids were generated in the actual plant tissue (calyx) and then transported to the buds in order to aid flowering. However, upon further research, they discovered that the trichomes actually generate the cannabinoids themselves.

Although they are indeed tiny (they can grow as big as 2:1000 of an inch), trichomes have a surprisingly complex structure.

There are generally, three major types of trichomes appearing on cannabis plants.

Bulbous trichomes

The smallest variation, these trichomes do not only cover the bud but the whole of the plant. Their growth can reach 15 micrometers.

Capitate sessile trichomes

These are larger and are comprised of a head (resembling vaguely a mushroom).

Capitate-stalked trichomes

These are the largest variety and are, in fact, visible with the naked eye. The image above represents a capitate-stalked trichome. They feature a stalk that rises all the way up to a gland head that is held in place by a membranous layer. This kind of trichome is by far the most bountiful and abundant. 

On the next chapter, we will see how we can help our plant to develop more trichomes and read the signs that they give regarding cannabis development.