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Cannabis Trichomes And Their Stages Of Development

cannabis trichomes

For us consumers, cannabis trichomes are the most important part of the cannabis plant because they contain all the chemical compounds, such as terpenes and cannabinoids, and they are responsible for the effect, aroma, and taste of the cannabis plant. These chemical compounds are produced and stored in the trichomes, so you must understand the different stages of trichome development and how they can determine the best time to harvest for your desired type of effect.

What Are The Trichomes?

Trichomes are microscopic resin glands found on many plants, including cannabis. These resin glands range from 50-100 μm and have a mushroom-like shape, with a “stalk” and a roundish head, where the cannabinoids (such as CBD and THC), terpenes, and over 400 other chemical compounds are produced and stored during the flowering stage. Once the pre-flowering stage comes, you’ll see the trichome coating the buds and sometimes leaves of the cannabis plant.

As mentioned, these resin glands (aka trichomes) have different stages of development. Due to the chemical compounds stored inside them, the different stages can affect the type of high you experience. Apart from the various stages, cannabis trichomes also have different shapes. Let’s get to know the different stages before learning about their stages of development.

The Different Shapes Of A Trichome

Trichomes exist in infinite shapes and sizes, but growers have identified three that appear more often, they are:

Capitate-Stalked Trichomes
Capitate-stalked trichomes can range from 50 – 100 μm, so they are much larger than the other two types and can be seen by the naked eye. Also, due to being the largest trichomes, they contain more cannabinoids and terpenes than capitate sessile and bulbous trichomes.

Types of trichomes
Types of trichomes

Capitate Sessile Trichomes
Capitate sessile trichomes are medium-sized trichomes ranging from 20 – 40 μm. These trichomes are hard to see by the naked eye. This means that you need the help of a microscope or loupe to see them in detail.

Bulbous Trichomes
Bulbous trichomes are the smallest of them all. They range from 10 -15 μm and are usually more common than the other two types of trichomes. However, they only contain a small number of cannabinoids and terpenes due to their being so tiny.

“Just remember that the only thing that varies from one type of trichome to the other is the number of chemical compounds they contain. All trichomes contain cannabinoids and terpenes among other chemical compounds“

The Development Stages Of A Trichome

Now that you know about the different types of cannabis trichomes you can find on your cannabis plants let’s finally learn about their different stages and how they can affect your experience. As you just read, trichomes can have various shapes and sizes, but they also have different stages, they are:

  1. Clear;
  2. Cloudy;
  3. And Amber.

It doesn’t matter if your plant is almost ready for harvest, harvested, dried, or cured. If you expose trichomes to oxygen, light, heat, and physical contact, they will continue to degrade.

lifecycle of cannabinoids
lifecycle of cannabinoids

Degradation happens because, like any fruit would, trichomes ripen (or mature), meaning that after a certain period, the trichomes can become overripe and won’t get you high anymore or won’t have the same effect as before.

That’s why, as a grower and consumer, you should know what each stage of cannabis trichome development means for the type of high.

1. Clear Trichomes

Once your plant transitions from the vegetative stage into the flowering stage (aka pre-flower), you’ll start to see cannabis trichomes developing on the buds and surrounding foliage. Depending on the strain and growing conditions, it may take a couple of days before you can see the trichome. But once you do, you’ll notice how the trichomes are still transparent or clear.

Clear trichomes

Clear trichomes are transparent because they’re empty. This means that your plant hasn’t started producing cannabinoids and terpenes and won’t get you high. However, as your plants continue their way through the flowering stage, they will begin to fill up, and soon you’ll see them go from clear to cloudy or milky white.

2. Cloudy Trichomes

After a couple of weeks, the difference in trichome production is easy to see. The buds are covered in trichomes. And the trichomes have started filling up with cannabinoids and terpenes, which causes the trichomes to have a bright white color. Now, the trichomes won’t turn white overnight. You’ll be able to see them transition from transparent to white over a couple of days or even weeks. 

Cloudy trichomes

This means that all trichomes on a cannabis plant are at different stages of development. Some may be completely transparent. Some completely white, some 50/50, 30/70, 80/20, or at any point transitioning from one stage to the other.

Once the majority of the trichomes are white, it means they reached their peak potency and are wholly filled with the chemical compounds that get you high. So if you prefer a more “cerebral” type of high, you should harvest now. But not all cannabis consumers are recreational consumers.

If you let the trichomes ripen for longer, they will start turning amber, resulting in a more “corporal” or “couch-lock” type of high, with just a light head buzz.

3. Amber Trichomes

If you wait for a couple of weeks after the trichomes have entirely turned white, they will start turning amber. This happens because the cannabinoids continue to ripen (or degrade), and when THC degrades, it turns into CBN. The more you let trichomes turn amber, the more THC turns into CBN and the stronger the “couch-lock” effect will be.

Amber trichomes

A more “corporal” effect doesn’t mean that your weed is not good. The state of the trichomes is a matter of personal preference. It will most likely differ between a recreational and medical consumer. As a matter of fact, expert growers claim that the best time to harvest is when around 20 – 30% of the trichomes have completely turned amber. This is because, this way, you’ll be experiencing the whole spectrum of cannabinoids your plant has to offer.

Obviously, you can harvest whenever you want. And it’s highly recommended you experiment with harvesting at different stages of trichome development to know what type of effect works better for you.

Final Thoughts

Waiting for the perfect cloudy to amber ratio is a great way to get the desired effects. The strain genetics and terpene profile will also influence the effect you experience. But knowing how the stages of development affect the type of high, you can tailor your plants’ effect to suit your needs.

An excellent way to use the stages of trichome development is to harvest according to the type of strain. For example, if you’re growing a Sativa-dominant strain, harvesting when 70% of the trichomes are cloudy, and 30% are amber usually results in the highest THC levels and lowest CBD levels, resulting in a more Sativa-like effect.

If you’re growing Indica-dominant strains, wait until the cannabis trichomes are at least 60% amber for a stronger Indica-like effect. Or, if you want a balanced effect, you can harvest when the trichomes are 50% cloudy and 50% amber. In fact, you can harvest when they’re 90/10, 70/30, 60/40, 80/20, or whatever you want. There’s no right or wrong when talking about personal preference. Remember to avoid harvesting when they’re transparent.

If you’re looking to grow your own medicine bush, make sure to check our catalog, where you’ll find a wide variety of both THC and CBD-rich strains, such as our Dr. Hypno CBD!

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Cannabis Trichomes And Their Stages Of Development

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