Many cannabis users are familiar with trichomes. A tiny little crystal you’ll find on the leaves and buds of cannabis flower. Trichomes are minuscule in size, but they impact marijuana in a huge way. If you want your cannabis to have a lovely flavor and aroma– and a good amount of CBD or THC– you want your cannabis to have some well-tended trichomes.
Curious about how exactly cannabis trichomes affect a strain’s cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids? Read on to learn everything you need to know about cannabis trichomes.
What are Cannabis Trichomes?
Trichomes are tiny growths that can be found on certain plants, including algae, lichens, and cannabis plants. The word trichome comes from the Greek word “trichōma,” which means “growth of hair.” This is a fitting name for trichomes. As they look a bit like tiny, frosty, sparkly hairs that cover a plant. While cannabis trichomes are not hairs, they do grow out of the cannabis plant much like a hair would. Springing from the plant’s surface during the flowering phase.
Once they form on the surface of a cannabis plant, trichomes go to work. Cannabis trichomes transport the vacuoles and plastids in their stalks up to their tips. Where they metabolize them and begin to synthesize a resin that contains terpenes and cannabinoids, including CBD and THC. Other parts of the cannabis plant also contain cannabinoids and terpenes, but trichomes are extremely abundant in these cannabis compounds. The majority of a marijuana plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes will be found in its trichomes.
So, essentially, trichomes are responsible for what many people enjoy most about cannabis. Its cannabinoids and terpenes, and therefore also its effects, aromatics, and flavonoids. And trichomes not only store these cannabis compounds in their tiny tips, but they also create them.
What Do Trichomes Do?
Trichomes create and store the majority of a marijuana plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes– and, as if that weren’t enough, they also do several other jobs during a cannabis plant’s life cycle!
Trichomes form during the cannabis plant’s flowering stage when the plant becomes more vulnerable to predators. During this precarious time for a cannabis plant, trichomes work as a natural defense mechanism against predators like animals and insects, who are usually repelled by the bitter taste and strong aroma of the plant’s trichomes.
The trichomes that grow out of a cannabis plant can also help it avoid UV overexposure. Which would damage the plant’s delicate tissues. Trichomes act as a physical barrier against harmful UV rays. When a cannabis plant is exposed to more UV light, it tends to grow more trichomes, which help protect the plant’s fragile flowers and stems from excessive UV radiation. The physical barrier created by trichomes can protect plants from other harsh elements as well, including damaging winds.
In addition to protecting cannabis plants as they grow naturally, trichomes can act as a signal to cannabis growers. A cannabis grower can look at a cannabis plant’s trichomes to see how far along the plant is in its flowering cycle. It will help them harvest their cannabis buds at an optimal time. Near the beginning of a cannabis plant’s flowering cycle, its trichomes will be very small and clear. When it’s nearing maturity, a cannabis plant’s trichomes begin to look opaque and will take on a faint yellow color. Letting the plant’s grower know that it’s harvest time.
The Different Types of Trichomes
Trichomes come in many shapes and sizes. The three most common types of cannabis trichomes are:
- Bulbous Trichomes: Bulbous trichomes are the smallest type of trichome. These tiny trichomes can be as small as 10 micrometers (for perspective, there are 1,000 micrometers in a millimeter). So they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Using a magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loupe, you can see that bulbous trichome usually covers an entire cannabis plant.
- Capitate Sessile Trichomes: Capitate sessile trichomes are medium-sized trichomes that measure around 25 to 100 micrometers in length. These outgrowths cover quite a bit of the cannabis plant, including its leaves and stems. They look like a long stalk with a bulb at its tip. Capitate sessile trichomes contain more cannabinoids than the smaller bulbous trichomes do. But don’t hold a candle to the creation and storage capacity of capitate-stalked trichomes.
- Capitate-Stalked Trichomes: Capitate-stalked trichomes are what most people imagine when they picture trichomes. Measuring up to 500 micrometers in length, capitate-stalked trichomes are the largest of the three common cannabis trichomes, making them easy to see with the naked eye. Capitate-stalked trichomes are often described as looking like tiny, glistening long-stemmed mushrooms. They have a slim stalk and a large resin gland head that holds most of their cannabinoids and terpenes.
Why Do Cannabis Trichomes Make Cannabis Feel Sticky?
As a healthy trichome grows during its plant’s flowering phase, it naturally produces cannabinoids and terpenes within its resin. The resin within a trichome is a sticky, syrupy substance that’s packed with cannabinoids and terpenes, and its stickiness makes it great at holding in all those cannabis compounds its trichome creates. When you have a flower that feels sticky, that’s a sign that your flower has a good amount of resin within its trichomes.
Are Cannabis Trichomes the Same Thing as Kief?
When most people talk about kief, they are talking about the trichomes that have come off of loose, dry cannabis. When isolated, these tiny trichomes make a sticky, powdery substance called kief, which is very potent. Kief powder may be plant matter residue that has accumulated in a grinder or it can be harvested intentionally.
So, essentially, trichomes and kief are the same things. However, if you want to get technical, kief is only the very top part of a trichome. If you look at a trichome up close, the mushroom-like bulbous head (which is the most potent part of the trichome) is the kief.
Other words for kief that would also generally refer to loose trichomes or trichome heads include pollen, dry shake, and the alternate spelling “keef.” Some people refer to keif as hash or hashish, but these are not quite the same thing. Hash or hashish is a cannabis concentrate that is made by compressing kief powder (aka loose trichomes) together.
Are Cannabis Trichomes the Same Thing as Cannabis Pistils?
Trichomes and pistils are completely different parts of the cannabis plant, but it’s easy to see why people sometimes confuse them. Cannabis trichomes and cannabis pistils both grow out of the calyx of the plant and they both look a lot like hairs. Trichomes and pistils can also change color as the plant matures. However, though they have some similarities, trichomes and pistils also have notable differences in both appearance and function. Trichomes are tiny and look more like frost than hair when viewed from a distance, while pistils are much larger and longer in comparison. Then, trichomes create and store cannabinoids and terpenes, while pistils (which are only present on female cannabis plants) serve to receive pollen from male cannabis plants.
Do More Trichomes Mean Better Weed or Higher THC Levels?
Many people think that having more trichomes means that cannabis flowers will always be better or have more THC, but this is a misconception. Cannabis trichomes contain the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes, so you certainly do want a healthy amount of trichomes on your flower. However, the number of trichomes on a plant is definitely not the only thing that affects the plant’s potency, cannabinoid profile, aroma, and flavor. Many other things will affect a plant’s cannabinoid content and terpenes, including its genetics, nutrition, environment, and the skill of its grower.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Trichomes
This concludes our guide to everything you need to know about cannabis trichomes! If you have any questions about trichomes that aren’t answered in our guide, please feel free to reach out. The knowledgeable team members at Essence Dispensary are always happy to answer our customers’ cannabis questions. To get in touch with us, call your closest Essence location during our normal business hours or send us a message here through our website.