Everyone loves a beautiful crystal coated bud. In fact, sticky-icky nugs are held at the highest regard in the cannabis industry. But, what are those mini crystals, and what do they mean to the overall quality?

The microscopic ‘crystals’ that cover cannabis plants are known as trichomes. Here, we’ll answer the question - what are trichomes? Plus, cover why they’re so important in growing, and consuming. Keep reading for our in-depth guide to trichomes, and what you should know about them.

What Are Trichomes?

By definition, a trichome is ‘an appendage on the surface of the cannabis flower that produces and holds the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes.’ While containing the plant compounds that produce weed’s effects and scents is important to the consumer... trichomes serve the plant just as much. To the plant, trichomes act as a defence to fungi, insects and predators. They also can protect the plant from harsh climate conditions, and UV rays, too. 

There are three main types of trichomes that differ from one another. They include - 

Bulbous - Contrary to its name, bulbous trichomes are the littlest trichomes of them all. They grow on the entire surface of the plant, and contain less beneficial compounds than others.

Capitate Sessile - Capitate Sessile trichomes are a little larger than bulbous trichomes but have a head, and a stalk. While they are found in higher amounts than bulbous trichomes, the next type is the most abundant.  

Capitate-stalked - Capitate-stalked trichomes are visible to the naked eye, and what you’re probably used to seeing on the flower or calyxes of the bud. These trichomes contain multiple cells in the stalk and a large gland, in the head of their shape. The extra space means, capitate-stalked trichomes have the highest levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, although all three trichomes can produce both.

Why Are Trichomes Important For Cannabis?

On the surface, you could argue that trichomes are the most important part of the plant to consumers. Which is true considering they contain the cannabinoids and terpenes that produce marijuana’s effects and aromas. But, to growers they’re just as crucial. That’s because trichomes give a clear-view into the life stage of the plant, and allows a grower to decipher when the plant is ready for harvesting.

As plants grow, the trichomes change with the life cycle and overall maturation. So, as they change colors and translucency, growers have an internal indicator of when the plant is ready to harvest. It’s also important to know, at each level of maturity, the cannabinoids will produce varying effects. So, if you’re growing for medical or personal purposes, you can fine-tune harvest times for your desired needs.

Here’s a quick guide on the stages of trichomes, and how they can indicate when to harvest.

Clear trichomes - When trichomes first appear, they are clear. This means they’re too immature to harvest and you’ll need to wait until they mature and transform.

Cloudy trichomes - As growth continues, trichomes will begin to appear cloudy. The opaque or milky transparency means levels of THC, and cannabinoids are increasing. Trichomes will remain this shade for up to 2 weeks. During this stage, cannabinoids and terpenes are more apt to deliver cerebral and energetic effects.

Amber trichomes - After trichomes are cloudy, they’ll begin to turn an amber color. This occurs at the end of the flowering stage, and indicates THC is converting to CBN. So, THC levels may be lesser than found in the ‘cloudy’ stage, however highs can be just as intense. That’s because effects at this stage of trichomes are more sleepy, relaxed, and couch-locking.

Mixed trichomes - The best time to harvest is when you have a balanced level of cloudy/amber trichomes. Unless, of course you’re growing for specific desires as we described. For instance, if 50% of the trichomes are amber, and 50% of the trichomes are cloudy you’ll be treated to a balanced mix of effects, that are relaxing yet exhilarating for the mind.

To inspect your trichomes for harvesting purposes, you can normally see capitate-stalked types with the naked eye. If you can’t, you can use the magnifier on your camera phone or a jeweller’s loupe, or microscope to get a closer look.

Trichomes on a marijuana plant

How To Promote & Protect Trichomes in Growing

Due to their size and consistency, it’s no surprise that trichomes are quite precious and volatile. In growth and while drying & curing, trichomes are sensitive to -

  • Physical contact or agitation
  • Heat
  • Light
  • Oxygen
  • Time

That means, to protect and increase trichome levels you’ll want to implement a few best practices to ensure you’re not damaging the quality of your crops. To protect and promote trichome growth, it helps to time your harvest properly, use recommended lighting, and maintain an optimal environment. For instance, modern LED lights are recommended for indoor growing, since they best mimic the spectrum of the sun for increased trichome growth. Handling buds with care during harvesting, drying and curing, helps too. 

Overall, the healthier your plant, and environment, the better production and protection of the trichomes. Choosing a proper strain, will also help increase the production of trichomes in your crops. Some strains are genetically apt to produce higher levels of trichomes, naturally. We’ll cover which ones, next.

The Importance of Trichomes to Extraction

Ever notice certain strains can almost always be found in extract or concentrate form? Extractors have caught on to the fact that specific genes produce higher levels of trichomes. For extraction purposes, this is key. Since trichomes are what separates from the plant material to make extracts, oils and concentrates, they’re important to have in ample levels.

So what strains produce higher levels of trichomes overall? Here are just a few examples, that you can easily grow, too.

Trichomes, More That Meets The Eye

While you already probably knew that trichomes were an indicator of a quality plant, now you know why. Trichomes contain the precious cannabinoids and terpenes that deliver weed’s unique effects and aromas. With the tips and information you learned today, now you can promote and protect the growth of trichomes for higher quality growth

If you’re seeking high quality seeds to start with, look no further than 420 Seeds. We offer a variety of high-resin and trichome producing strains, including autoflowering, and feminized versions. Start shopping our full collection of premium seeds, now.