Have you ever wondered what that sticky, textured blanket of frost is on cannabis? This gooey substance is what produces potent, unique, and effective strains of cannabinoids. The substance is called “Trichomes”. Originating from the Greek word meaning "growth of hair", trichomes serve as an essential defense for the cannabis plant.
So what are trichomes? These minuscule hairs create a layer of protection for the cannabis plant due to its sticky consistency and strong aromatics. Once the plant begins to produce flowers, insects, animals, and even UV rays are attracted. Trichomes have a bitter taste and an intense scent, deterring insects and animals from feasting on them.
The shiny properties trichomes create, also attract UV rays that can be harmful if in abundance.
These frosty guardians serve to protect the cannabis plant from damaging winds as well because of the texture and concentration they have. Trichomes also defend against a variety of fungal growths because of the dense, tacky nature.
Trichomes form on the outer surface of the above-ground cannabis plant just as the bloom phase begins. They look similar to microscopic mushrooms. Though many other plants also produce trichomes, there are three types found most on cannabis plants.
1.Bulbous trichomes appear on the entire surface of the plant as the smallest of the three, as small as 10-15 micrometers.
2.Capitate trichomes appear slightly larger, are more abundant than bulbous, and contain both a head and a stalk.
3.Capitate-stalked trichomes are much larger, ranging from 50-100 micrometers wide, and can be seen by the naked eye. These trichomes also contain a head and a stalk; however, the cell-rich head of capitate-stalked trichomes serves as an epicenter for cannabinoid and terpenoid synthesis, producing the highest concentrations of essential oils.
Communicating cultivation and harvesting is another essential function the trichomes serve. Throughout the flowering stages, the color of the trichome chemical composition changes its color from clear to cloudy to amber to mixed.
When you notice a mixed hue of milky and amber trichomes, this is the ideal time to harvest. At this stage, the buds possess high levels of THC leading to a more complete body and mindful experience. Though you can harvest in the amber stages as well, it is said that at this stage the molecule tends to contribute to a more sleepy, physical experience.
Cultivating at the right moment is imperative. Once the cannabis plant reaches full maturation, degradation begins. Destruction of trichomes can also occur before maturation. Careless exposure and/or over exposure to any of the following will also serve as a volatile catalyst to the trichomes and plant: physical contact, heat, light, oxygen or even time.
Proper cultivation techniques such as drying, trimming and curing can prolong the trichomes lifecycle and preserve the cannabinoids and terpenoids.
Farmers also attempt to extract trichomes beyond the original plant to extend the medicinal and therapeutic properties. Because trichomes are extremely delicate, extraction techniques have been challenging. Many cultivators have found that fast-freezing or deep-freezing technologies remove the physical damages often seen trimming and drying.
These miraculous, microscopic hairs hold the essence of the cannabis plant’s medicinal and recreational compounds, so it is essential to preserve as many as possible when harvesting.
This sticky defense can be consumed in a variety of ways, and cultivators are finding new ways to ingest the medicinal and therapeutic properties everyday. So the next time you see that sparkle gleam off your frosty buds, you will know that those delicate trichomes fought hard to produce for your pleasure. And now you can answer the question, what are trichomes?