What Are Trichomes In Cannabis? | Vancouver Seed Bank

What Are Trichomes In Cannabis?


Trichomes produce and store cannabinoids and terpenes, the compounds responsible for the plant’s effects and aroma. They’re small, hair-like structures found on the surface of cannabis buds, leaves, and stems. These tiny structures hold essential ingredients that enhance the flavor, scent, and therapeutic properties of the plant. Understanding the importance of trichomes is essential to appreciating the complexity and power of cannabis.

Table of Contents

Cannabis Trichomes Importance 3 Types of Trichomes

1. Bulbous Trichomes

2. Capitate Sessile Trichomes

3. Capitate-Stalked Trichomes

Role Of Terpenes In Cannabis Trichomes Understanding the Trichome Color Chart in Cannabis Cultivation

1. Clear Trichomes

2. Cloudy Trichomes

3. Amber Trichomes

Harvesting Trichomes

How to Identify Mature Trichomes?

Can You Harvest Cannabis When Trichomes Are Clear?

Maximizing Trichome Production in Cannabis Final Thoughts FAQs

Cannabis Trichomes Importance

Trichomes are sticky extensions that develop from the cannabis plant’s leaves, stems, and flowers. Depending on the strain and growth stage, they can have a variety of sizes and shapes, resembling tiny hairs or mushrooms. Trichomes are primarily responsible for producing and storing the bioactive compounds that give cannabis its unique properties.

Cannabinoid Production: The primary sources for the production of cannabinoids are trichomes. The compounds that give cannabis its therapeutic and psychoactive effects, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), are produced and stored by these cells specifically for this purpose.

Terpene Synthesis: Trichomes also produce terpenes, aromatic compounds that contribute to the flavor and aroma of cannabis. Terpenes not only enhance the sensory experience but also modulate the effects of cannabinoids through the entourage effect.

Defense Mechanism: Trichomes act as a defense mechanism against predators, pests, and environmental stressors. The sticky resin produced by trichomes contains bitter-tasting compounds and cannabinoids that deter herbivores and pathogens.

UV Protection: Trichomes help protect the plant from excessive UV radiation by reflecting and absorbing harmful wavelengths of light. This UV protection is especially important for outdoor-grown cannabis plants exposed to intense sunlight.

3 Types of Trichomes

There are three main types of trichomes found on cannabis plants:

  1. Bulbous Trichomes

These are the trichomes that are both the smallest and largest. They resemble microscopic extensions on the plant’s exterior and are home to precursor chemicals that later give the development of terpenes and cannabinoids.

  1. Capitate Sessile Trichomes

Capitate sessile trichomes, which are a little bigger than bulbous trichomes, lack a distinct stalk but do have a gland head and a stalk. Compared to bulbous trichomes, these trichomes yield a larger quantity of terpenes and cannabinoids.

  1. Capitate-Stalked Trichomes

The largest and most potent type of trichomes, capitate-stalked trichomes have a stalk and a gland head. These trichomes are rich in cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, as well as aromatic terpenes.

Role Of Terpenes In Cannabis Trichomes

Terpenes are aromatic compounds produced by trichomes that contribute to the scent and flavor of cannabis. They also interact with cannabinoids to modulate their effects through the entourage effect, influencing the overall experience of consuming cannabis.

Terpenes are essential parts of the trichomes of cannabis plants; they control flavor, scent, therapeutic properties, and even the resilience of the plant. Knowing how terpenes work in cannabis not only helps one understand the complexity of the plant but also has potential uses in the rapidly growing cannabis industry for improving therapeutic results and product development.

Understanding the Trichome Color Chart in Cannabis Cultivation

The trichome color chart is a very useful tool for determining when cannabis plants are most ready to be harvested. Throughout their maturity process, trichomes—the resinous glands that house terpenes and cannabinoids—go through unique color changes. Cultivators can precisely identify when to harvest their crops to achieve maximum potency and intended effects by interpreting these color changes.

The Trichome Color Chart

The trichome color chart categorizes the various stages of trichome development based on their coloration, offering insights into the plant’s readiness for harvest. Typically, trichomes progress through three primary color phases: clear, cloudy, and amber.

  1. Clear Trichomes

During the early stages of flowering, trichomes appear translucent or clear. At this point, cannabinoids such as THC are still in their precursor forms, indicating a lower potency level. Harvesting cannabis when trichomes are predominantly clear may result in a less potent and psychoactive experience.

  1. Cloudy Trichomes

As the flowering stage progresses, trichomes transition from clear to cloudy or milky white. This phase signifies peak cannabinoid production, with THC levels reaching their maximum potency. Harvesting cannabis at this stage yields a balanced blend of psychoactive effects and therapeutic benefits, ideal for most consumers seeking a well-rounded experience.

  1. Amber Trichomes

In the final stages of maturation, trichomes may develop an amber or golden hue. This indicates the degradation of THC into cannabinol (CBN), resulting in a more sedative and relaxing effect. While some cultivators prefer harvesting cannabis with a portion of amber trichomes for enhanced body effects, excessive ambering may indicate overripeness and a decline in overall potency.

Harvesting Trichomes

The optimal time to harvest cannabis depends on the maturity of the weed trichomes. The maturity and density of trichomes determine the potency of the final product, with mature trichomes containing higher levels of cannabinoids. When trichomes are clear or translucent, the plant is not yet fully mature, and the cannabinoid content is lower. As the trichomes turn cloudy or milky, the plant reaches its peak potency. Some growers prefer to harvest when trichomes turn amber for a more sedative effect.

  • How to Identify Mature Trichomes?

Mature trichomes typically appear cloudy or milky under magnification, indicating that they are full of cannabinoids and ready for harvest. Some growers also look for amber-colored trichomes for a more sedative effect, but this varies depending on personal preference and desired effects.

  • Can You Harvest Cannabis When Trichomes Are Clear?

Clear trichomes indicate that the plant is still in the early stages of development. At this point, THC levels are relatively low, and the overall potency of the plant is not yet fully realized. Harvesting cannabis with predominantly clear trichomes may result in a less potent and psychoactive experience. Additionally, the flavor and aroma profiles may not have fully developed, leading to a less satisfying overall product.

Maximizing Trichome Production in Cannabis

Light Spectrum Management: Tailoring the light spectrum to mimic the natural conditions of the sun can stimulate trichome production. During the flowering stage, transitioning to a spectrum rich in red and orange wavelengths while minimizing blue light exposure encourages trichome proliferation.

Temperature and Humidity Control: Maintaining an optimal temperature and humidity range throughout the cultivation cycle is imperative for maximizing trichome production. Mild fluctuations within the ideal parameters stimulate trichome development, whereas extremes can inhibit growth and compromise resin production.

Nutrient Management: Providing cannabis plants with a balanced nutrient regimen, rich in essential macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) and micronutrients (calcium, magnesium, iron), is vital for promoting robust trichome formation. Avoiding nutrient deficiencies or excesses ensures that the plant’s metabolic processes, including trichome biosynthesis, operate optimally.

Stress Induction Techniques: Strategic application of stress-inducing techniques such as low-stress training (LST), defoliation, and selective pruning can trigger a defensive response in cannabis plants, prompting increased trichome production. However, caution must be exercised to prevent excessive stress, which may diminish overall plant health and productivity.

Final Thoughts

Trichomes are tiny, crystal-like structures found on cannabis flowers. They contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds responsible for the plant’s effects. The trichomes chart serves as a fundamental guide for cannabis cultivators, offering invaluable insights into the optimal harvest timing based on trichome maturity. Upon identifying mature trichomes, growers must look for cloudy or milky trichome heads under a magnifying glass, and amber-colored trichomes suggest degradation and may indicate overripeness. Harvesting mature trichomes is essential for obtaining high-quality cannabis. With careful observation and proper technique, you can maximize the potency and flavor of your harvest.


1. What is trichomes and its function?

Answer: Trichomes are small, glandular structures found on the surface of cannabis plants, appearing as tiny hairs. They produce and store cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, along with aromatic compounds called terpenes. Trichomes serve protective functions, deterring herbivores and insects, while also influencing the plant’s potency, aroma, and therapeutic effects.

2. What are the three types of trichomes?

Answer: Three types of trichomes found on cannabis flowers are capitate-sessile, capitate-stalked, and bulbous. Capitate-sessile trichomes are glandular and sit directly on the plant surface. Capitate-stalked trichomes have a stalk that elevates the glandular head. Bulbous trichomes are small, non-glandular structures scattered across the plant surface.

3. What is the difference between terpenes and trichomes?

Answer: Terpenes are the natural oils responsible for the unique flavors of different cannabis strains. These aromatic compounds, such as citrus, berry, mint, or pine, are often the reason why individuals select specific strains. Terpenes are produced and released by the resin glands found in the flower’s sticky trichomes.

4. What are the effects of trichomes?

Answer: Amber trichomes usually produce deeper, more potent effects, while cloudy trichomes are more energizing and cerebrally clear. Growers that cultivate Indica-dominant strains should wait to harvest until about 60% of the trichomes have become amber before doing so.

5. Are trichomes on buds or leaves?

Answer: Tiny, resin-filled structures called trichomes contain terpenes, cannabinoids, and other chemicals that give cannabis its flavor, aroma, and effects. These structures are most commonly found where they are most concentrated—on the buds or blossoms of female cannabis plants.


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