Trichomes are small, hair-like structures that protrude from the surface of cannabis plants. They are often visible to the naked eye and can range in size from a few micrometers to a few millimeters. Trichomes are important for cannabis plants because they serve several key functions.
One of the main functions of trichomes on cannabis plants is to protect it from predators and environmental stressors. For example, the sticky resin produced by trichomes can trap and deter insects and other pests from feeding on the plant. Trichomes can also reflect UV radiation, which can damage the plant’s DNA and reduce its ability to photosynthesize.
In addition to their protective function, they are also responsible for producing many of the plant’s desirable compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. These compounds are produced in the glandular trichomes found on the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant.
Understanding the different types of trichomes and their functions is crucial for cannabis growers and enthusiasts, as it can help them identify high-quality strains and optimize their cultivation practices.
The different types of trichomes
There are three main types of trichomes found on the plants, each with unique characteristics: bulbous, capitate-sessile, and capitate-stalked trichomes.
- Bulbous trichomes: Bulbous trichomes are the smallest and most abundant type of trichomes found on cannabis plants. These trichomes are typically less than 15 micrometers in size and consist of a single, small cell. They are most commonly found on the surface of leaves and stems, but are also present on flowers. Bulbous trichomes do not produce significant amounts of cannabinoids or terpenes, and are believed to primarily serve a protective function by secreting oils and waxes.
- Capitate-Sessile trichomes: Capitate-sessile trichomes are larger and more complex than bulbous trichomes. They are typically 25-50 micrometers in size and have a multicellular stalk with a single glandular head. Capitate-sessile trichomes are found on both the leaves and flowers of cannabis plants, and produce moderate amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes. They are less abundant than bulbous trichomes but more abundant than capitate-stalked trichomes.
- Capitate-Stalked trichomes: Capitate-stalked trichomes are the largest and most potent type of trichomes found on cannabis plants. These trichomes are typically 50-100 micrometers in size and have a multicellular stalk with a glandular head that is much larger than that of capitate-sessile trichomes. Capitate-stalked trichomes are found almost exclusively on the flowers of cannabis plants, and are responsible for producing the highest concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. They are the least abundant type of trichomes, but are the most sought-after by cannabis enthusiasts due to their high potency.
The different types of trichomes play important roles in the plant’s biology and chemistry. Understanding the characteristics of each type can help growers and enthusiasts to identify high-quality strains and optimize their cultivation practices.
How cannabis plants use trichomes to thrive
Trichomes serve several key functions, including:
- Protection from pests: Trichomes on cannabis plants produce a sticky resin that can trap and deter insects and other pests from feeding on the plant. The resin can also contain toxic compounds that are harmful to predators, further deterring them from attacking the plant.
- Protection from UV radiation: Trichomes can reflect UV radiation, which can damage the plant’s DNA and reduce its ability to photosynthesize. This protective function is particularly important for cannabis plants grown in regions with high levels of UV radiation, such as in high-altitude areas or near the equator.
- Production of cannabinoids and terpenes: The glandular trichomes found on the flowers and leaves of cannabis plants are responsible for producing many of the plant’s desirable compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. These compounds are produced in specialized cells within the glandular trichomes, which are believed to serve a range of functions, including defense against pests and predators, as well as attraction of pollinators.
- Attraction of pollinators: Trichomes can also play a role in attracting pollinators, such as bees and other insects, to the plant. The sticky resin produced by trichomes can trap pollen and other small particles, which can then be transferred to other plants during pollination.
How trichomes affect potency and flavour
Trichomes are responsible for producing many of the plant’s desirable compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. The density of trichomes on the plant can affect the concentration of these compounds, which in turn can impact the potency and flavor of the plant.
Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between trichome density and cannabinoid/terpene production. Specifically, plants with higher trichome densities tend to produce higher concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes than plants with lower densities.
This relationship between trichome density and cannabinoid/terpene production can have important implications for the potency and taste of cannabis. Plants with higher trichome densities tend to be more potent, as they contain higher concentrations of THC and other cannabinoids. Additionally, these plants often have more complex and intense flavors, as the terpenes produced by the trichomes contribute to the plant’s aroma and taste.
Growers can use this knowledge to optimize their cultivation practices and produce high-quality cannabis. For example, techniques such as pruning, topping, and training can help to increase trichome density and promote cannabinoid/terpene production. Additionally, selecting strains with naturally high trichome densities can help to ensure a potent and flavorful harvest.
How to harvest trichomes from your plants
Harvesting and handling cannabis trichomes properly is crucial to preserving their potency and quality. Here are some tips to help ensure that you get the most out of your trichomes:
- Choose the right time to harvest: The optimal time to harvest cannabis trichomes is when they are fully mature and have reached peak potency. This can be determined by monitoring the color of the trichomes – when they turn cloudy or amber in color, it is typically a sign that they are ready for harvest.
- Use proper tools: When harvesting trichomes, it is important to use tools that will not damage or crush them. Sharp scissors or pruning shears are a good option, as they allow for precise cuts without causing damage to the trichomes.
- Handle trichomes gently: Once the trichomes have been harvested, it is important to handle them gently to avoid damaging them. This includes avoiding excessive handling or crushing of the trichomes, which can cause them to lose potency.
- Store trichomes properly: To preserve the potency and quality of trichomes, it is important to store them properly. This can be done by placing them in a sealed container in a cool, dark place. Some growers also recommend storing trichomes in the freezer to help prevent degradation over time.
- Avoid contamination: To avoid contamination of trichomes, it is important to handle them with clean hands and to use clean tools and containers. Contamination can cause the trichomes to degrade more quickly, reducing their potency and quality.
By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your cannabis trichomes retain their potency and quality, resulting in a more enjoyable experience.
References and further reading
- Morales, M. A., & Jaita, G. (2021). Cannabis sativa L.: botanical aspects, phytochemistry and biotechnological advances. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 105(1), 55-75.
- Sirikantaramas, S., Taura, F., Tanaka, Y., Ishikawa, Y., & Morimoto, S. (2005). Functional characterization of cannabichromene synthase from Cannabis sativa L.: initiation of a cannabichromene biosynthetic pathway. Plant Molecular Biology, 58(3), 345-356.
- Turner, C. E., & Mahlberg, P. G. (1985). Cannabinoid composition and gland distribution in clones of Cannabis sativa L. The Journal of Natural Products, 48(1), 100-110.
- Rahn, E. J., Hohmann, A. G., & Murphy, E. A. (2019). And they’re off: Cannabis, cannabinoids, and race to treat COVID-19-induced inflammation. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 4(2), 84-89.
- Small, E. (2015). Evolution and classification of Cannabis sativa (Marijuana, Hemp) in relation to human utilization. Botanical Review, 81(3), 189-294.
- Livingston, S. J., & Quilichini, T. D. (2019). The morphology and developmental genetics of trichomes in Arabidopsis and tomato. Journal of Experimental Botany, 70(8), 2215-2227.