Cannabis Trichomes - A full guide

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Trichomes on Weed – What are they? How are they Created? Are they important? thumbnail

What are trichomes ? How to they grow? Does it influence harvesting? All your answers

Hey there and welcome (back) to Free the Tree!
In today’s article we’re going to cover everything there is to know about trichomes on Cannabis.

Thrichomes are little growths that plants grow. Generally they have a function for it, like defense against strong light or animals.

When you know how to “read” the stages of development of trichomes, you can “play” with the cannabinoid levels of the flowers you harvest !
Once you get the hang of it, you can even harvest some sections while, for example, the THC is at its highest. This will leave the other flowers for lower THC levels and higher CBD.

Here’s what we’re going to cover in this article

Trichomes on Cannabis - Table of content

What are Trichomes?

The term “Trichome” defines an outgrowth or appendages on plants, algae, lichens or protists.

On cannabis they look like tiny crystals or white powder that cover the buds and leaves near them. Once you look closer, you’ll notice that it’s actually thousands of small little bulbs

This is where the most of the terpenes, giving the smell and flavor, and the  cannabinoïd’s are producted. Among these, we can find, our friends, TetraHydroCannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

fully formed trichomes on marijuana leaf
Head and Stalk of Trichomes

Trichome – Botanical Definition

The Wikipedia definition of Trichomes is the following:

Trichomes (/ˈtrkmz/ or /ˈtrɪkmz/), from the Greek τρίχωμα (trichōma) meaning “hair”, are fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algaelichens, and certain protists. They are of diverse structure and function. Examples are hairs, glandular hairs, scales, and papillae. A covering of any kind of hair on a plant is an indumentum, and the surface bearing them is said to be pubescent.

The different types of Trichomes

As we said in the previous section, there are a wide range of different types and styles of Trichomes. That said, there are 3 that are mainly present within the different strains of cannabis.

Microscopic level image detailing the 3 types of trichomes on cannabis
Different types of Trichomes on Weed

Image credit to

Bulbous Trichomes

The bulbous trichomes are the smallest of the family and appear on the whole surface of the plant. Their size ranges of 10 to 30 micrometers.
This is so small that they’re only composed of a handful of cells do not contain a stalk.

Capitate Sessile Trichomes

This second member of the family is a little bit bigger and much more abundant than the Bulbous trichome. These trichomes appear before the flowering stage. On an immature plant they will seem to be lying flat against the leaves or stalk.

Since they’re larger, they contain more cells and have a stalk, although it’s very small.

These little guys are interesting and contain some cannabinoids. That said, they’re far less interesting than third member of the family, the Capitate-Staled Trichome.

Capitate-Stalked Trichomes

This last member of the family is the one that interests us the most. They start to appear during the flowering stage, once the buds are formed. They cover the buds and flower bracts (small leaves near the buds).

These little ones are the most developed. They contains the largest amounts of Cannabinoids and are the ones to follow up in order to determine the best moment to harvest.

These trichomes range between 15 and 50 millimeters, making them visible by the naked eye. Even though you can see them, you will need a magnifying glass in order to identify which stage their in.

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What are trichomes used for?

In the reign of plants, Trichomes have a wide range of uses. From carnivorous plants using them to attract insects to many plants using them for heat and pests protection.
Trichomes are a little like the “secret” power that each specie of plant has developed to survive.

In the case of Cannabis, trichomes are mainly used as a defense system.
When the female plant starts to produce flowers the potency of the smell is much stronger. In the wild, that smell attracts insects which can endanger the plant. Flowers are also much more vulnerable to UV rays.

Flowers produce extra dangers for a female cannabis plant and they had to develop a defense. Helloooo trichomes!

Their bitter taste and strong aroma allow trichomes to serve as a deterrent for animals and renders the plant unpalatable.

On the insect side, their stickiness makes the buds much less accessible and is used as a trap. The insect lands on the leaf near the bud and cannot move around since they are stuck by the trichomes.

On top of all of this, they also protect the plant from damaging winds and some strains of fungus.

Crazy how much trichomes can do right ? We can say that they’re essential to the well being of the female plant and thus to this specie of plant.

Trichomes use for Cannabis | Recap

Let’s recap what trichomes are, which types exist and what their use is in the development of Cannabis
 TRICHOMES Usage by the Cannabis plant
What are they Small growths present on buds and leaves near the buds. They contain the cannabinoids produced by the plant (THC, CBD among hundreds)
Types of Trichomes 3 Types are present on Cannabis, bulbous, Capitate Sessile and Capitate Stalked Trichomes. The latter is the largest ones with the highest potency in THC and CBD. These are the ones you want to follow up to know when to harvest.
Use of Trichomes Trichomes are a defense system, protecting the plant against

How to see trichomes ?

In order to have a better look at the trichomes you’re going to need a hand held scope of some sorts. Once you have that the steps are pretty easy, here’s what you’ll want to do:

  1. Identify area’s with a large amount of trichomes. You’ll find them on the buds and leaves around the buds.
  2. Place the scope on the area
  3. Look into it and focus
  4. And voilà! The hundreds, or should I say thousands, of trichomes are visible to you!

Honestly in my opinion these hand held scopes are a must-have.
They will allow allow you to keep an eye on the trichomes, thus allowing you to time perfectly your harvest.

How does Marijuana produce trichomes ?

Coming soon

When do Trichomes start to appear?

Generally it is said that trichomes appear during the flowering stage. This is only true for the Capitate Stalked Trichome. Being the trichome that contains the most cannabinoids and terpenes, specifically THC and CBD, it makes sense.

That said, the Bulbous trichomes starts to appear during the vegetative stage. These trichomes are generally disregarded since they’re invisible to the naked eye and do not contain any cannabinoids.

Stages of development of Cannabis Trichomes

The different types of trichomes appear during different stages of growth. As we said in previously, some even appear during the vegetation stage, but they do not contain many cannabinoïds.

In this section we will focus on the most interesting ones to us, the Capitate Stalked Trichome. We are looking at this one in particulat as it’s the one containing the most THC, CBD and terpenes

Let’s get into the different stages of development of this trichome:

TRICHOME STATEStage of development
Unformed or Clear
  • The Trichomes isn’t fully developed yet. The stalk is still growing.
  • The head of the trichome isn’t formed or isn’t perfectly round yet.
  • No THC or CBD production has started.
Some are Clear, some are Milky
  • THC production has started in some Thricomes.
  • The levels of THC aren’t at their highest.
  • Not ready to harvest.
Mostly or all Milky
  •  THC levels are at their highest.
  • If you’re aiming for an very upper type effect this is the window for harvest.
Mostly milky and some are turning golden/amber
  • THC glands are starting to deteriorate.
  • THC levels are starting to reduce.
  • CBD levels are starting to increase.
  • If you’re looking for that mildly upper high this is the time to harvest.
Mostly or all golden/brown
  • THC Glands have fully deteriorated.
  • CBD levels are at their highest and THC levels at their lowest.
  • If you’re looking for more of a chill/”couch potato” high this is when you want to harvest.

How to increase Trichomes production

coming soon

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Production of THC and CBD in the Trichomes

As you we’ve stated previously, the production of Cannabinoids mostly happens within the trichomes. This is especially the case for for THC and CBD.

Once the glands within the trichomes have fully formed, they will start to produce cannabinoids. A fully formed trichomes contains both the stem and a head.

When the trichomes are milky, the THC the levels will be at their highest. You will need to use a magnifying glass to see this level of detail.
At this point, the trichome will start to deteriorate.

This deterioration can be seen with a change in color. They will start turning to a golden/amber color. During this process, the THC levels start to drop leaving place for a new compound… CBD!

You can play with this to adjust the high produced by the plant, but that’s for the next section of the article

How to use Trichomes to time your harvest

Trichomes are the most effective way to know when to harvest you cannabis plant. You can literally observe the THC and CBD levels within your plant.

The specific timing is really up to you, since a different timing will impact the effects that the plant will have once cured.

For example, a sativa plant that is harvested at a full THC potency will have a strong “upper” high. On the other hand that same plant harvested when the trichomes have started to deteriorate will have lower THC levels and higher CBD. In this case, high will be probably be more “chill”.

To help you see clearly, here’s a recap of the THC and CBD levels at each stage of the trichomes development


Unformed or Clear
  • No THC or pictures-trichomesCBD levels.
Some are Clear, some are Milky
  • Low levels of THC
  • No CBD
All Milky (or mostly)
  • Highest levels of THC
  • No CBD

Good to harvest Indica strains here

Mostly milky and some are turning golden/amber
  • pictures-trichomesHigh levels of THC
  • Low levels of CBD

Good to harvest Sativa strains here

Mostly or all golden/brown
  • Low levels of THC
  • High levels of CBD

Pictures of Trichomes in each stage

In order to illustrate a bit more what you can see under your magnifying glass here’s a couple pictures of the trichomes in each stage.

Stage 1

trichomes clear and still forming, too early for the harvest
Forming & Formed clear trichomes

Image credit to

Stage 2

All trichomes milky, some strains can be harvested here
All Trichomes nice and milky

Image credit to

Stage 3

milky and amber trichomes, most strains are good to harvest now
Trichomes are mostly Amber

Image credit to cannabisindustryinstitutecom

Basically, regardless of what high you’re looking for you want to wait at least when all the trichomes have turned Milky. At that point, the plant has its highest potency in THC with their glands working at full regime.
After that moment, the trichomes and THC glands will start to deteriorate, which will reduce the THC levels, but the plant will start to produce CBD.

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Alright folks that all for this one, hopefully you found all you answers, if not send us a message!
Until next time, be safe and grow easy 😉

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