Trichomes on Weed

What are they? How to they grow? When to Harvest? All your answers

Thousands of trichomes all over the weed bud and leaves

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 Weed.
These little glands that appear on the flowers and near leaves start appearing during the second half of the flowering stage are very important to understand! This is where the THC is produced, meaning that when you know how to “read” them you’ll be able to harvest your marijuana with precise timing! You’ll even be able to decide to only harvest some sections of the plant and wait for the others to catch up.
Here’s what we’re going to cover

Trichomes on Marijuana – Table of Content

What are Trichomes?

The term “Trichome” itself defines an outgrowth or appendages on plants, algae, lichens or protists.
On marijuana they look like tiny crystals, white powder or little hairs that cover the buds and leaves near them. Once you look closer, you’ll notice that it’s actually thousands of small little bulbs
These little guys also carry a beautiful odor and a large amounts of cannabinoïd’s produced by the plant, among them the famous TetraHydroCannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

Trichome 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.

fully formed trichomes on marijuana leaf

Head and Stalk of Trichomes

The different types of Trichomes on Weed

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.

Bulbous Trichomes

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

These trichomes are the result of resin secreted by the head cells. When fully saturated and mature they will have a pointed shape and will be scattered all over the plant.

Capitate Sessile Trichomes

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

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

These little guys are definitely interesting since they have some cannabinoids, but they are still weak and not fully developed, making them much less interesting than the third member of the Cannabis Trichome family, the Capitate-Staled Trichome.

Capitate-Stalked Trichome

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.
They range between 15 and 50 millimeters, making them visible with the naked eye, but you will need a magnifying glass in order to identify which stage their in.

Microscopic level image detailing the 3 types of trichomes on cannabis

Different types of Trichomes on Weed
Image credit to herb.co

Function of Trichomes on Marijuana

In the reign of plants, Trichomes have a wide range of uses, from attracting insects in carnivorous plants, to protection from heat and pests on a wide range of plants, trichomes are a little like the “secret” power that each specie of plant has developed to survive.

Within the Cannabis species trichomes are mainly used as a defense system.
When the female Weed plant starts to produce the flowers the potency of the smell is much stronger. In the wild that smell attracts insects endangering the plant and the flower makes the plant more vulnerable to UV rays.
With all these extra dangers for a female Marijuana plant with time they had to develop a defense… hello trichomes!

With their bitter taste and strong aroma, trichomes 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.

Parallel to all of this, the trichomes also protect the plant from damaging winds and some varieties of fungus that can grow on weed.

As you can see the trichomes are essential to the well being of the female cannabis plant and thus to this specie of plant.

Trichomes on Marijuana | Recap

Let’s recap what trichomes are, which types exist and what their use is in the development of Cannabis

 Trichomes Marijuana
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 the Female Marijuana plants defense system, acting against Insects, Animals, Fungi, UVs and strong winds!

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’ll allow you to keep an eye on the trichomes, thus allowing you to time perfectly your harvest.

Small microscope used to analyse trichomes

How does Marijuana produce trichomes

Coming soon

When do Trichomes start to appear?

Generally it is said that trichomes appear during the flowering stage, which is True but only for the Capitate Stalked Trichome, the most interesting one since it contains most cannabinoids and specifically THC and CBD.

In reality, the Bulbous trichomes start appearing all over the plant during the vegetative stage, but these trichomes are generally disregarded since they’re invisible to the naked eye and do not contain any cannabinoids.

Stages of development of Trichomes on weed

The different types of trichomes appear during different stages of the cycle of life of Marijuana. As we said in the previous section some even appear during the vegetation stage, although they do not contain many cannabinoïds.

In this section we will focus on the most interesting ones to us, the Capitate Stalked Trichome. This is the biggest, most developed and most potent trichomes of the 3, making it the one to follow in order to determine the right moment to harvest your plant.

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

 Trichome State Description
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

Production of THC and CBD in the Trichomes

As you we’ve said in the previous sections of this article, the production of Cannabinoids mostly happens within the trichomes and this especially the case for THC and CBD.

Once the glands within the trichomes have fully formed, meaning that the stem and the head are present, the glands will start to produce THC, gradually raising the levels in the plant.

Once the glands have produced what they could in THC the levels will be at their highest. At this point, if looking under a magnifying glass, you’ll see that the interior of the head is no longer clear but has shifted to a milky color.
Here the plant is at its highest levels of potency in THC and the trichomes will start to deteriorate.

You can see the deterioration of the trichomes since they start showing an 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 for harvest timing

Trichomes are the most effective way to know when to harvest you Marijuana plant since you’re literally observing the THC and CBD levels within your marijuana 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, whereas the same plant that would be harvested a little bit later, when the trichomes have started to deteriorate and the CBD levels have risen the high will be more “chill”.

In order for you to have all the information, here’s a recap of the THC and CBD levels at each stage of the trichomes development

 Trichome State Cannabinoid Content
Unformed or Clear
  • No THC or CBD 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
  • High 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

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.

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 givingtreeaz.com

Stage 2

All trichomes milky, some strains can be harvested here

All Trichomes nice and milky
image credit to dabcanada.com

Stage 3

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

Trichomes are mostly Amber
image credit to cannabisindustryinstitute.com

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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