What are the trichomes of cannabis?
If you take a close look at a healthy cannabis plant, you will undoubtedly notice the many shiny translucent resin glands protruding from the buds. These resinous residues are known as trichomes. A trichome houses the key components of the plant that give it its therapeutic and psychotropic properties. These glandular structures are primarily responsible for the biosynthesis of cannabinoids, the biologically active compounds unique to the cannabis plant.
Barely visible to the naked eye, trichomes are best seen with at least 40x magnification. But on close examination, you can see the trichomes protruding from the flowers and the small leaves which are interspersed between the flower clusters. The most abundant concentration of trichomes can be found on bracts of pistilized plants (females).
Pistillate flowers contain a higher density of glands than leaves. Trichomes should not be confused with the pistils on the flowers of a female plant. The pistils house the reproductive organs of the plant and are often covered with resin. They are quite easy to distinguish because they are covered with a lot of "pistilized" hairs ...
This "vegetable hair" typically starts out white in color and slowly changes color to hues of oranges and reds as they age, then sleep when they are near death ...
Types of trichomes
Plant trichomes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and cell composition. The trichomes of the cannabis plant were divided into two types, namely glandular and non-glandular. These types of trichomes are distinguished by their ability to produce and secrete or store significant amounts of metabolites.
Non-glandular trichomes are hair-like hair extensions with a pointed top. They protect the plant from its environment, mainly by physical means. For example, limiting access to animals and insects, preventing water loss or degradation of light, and fighting fungal infections.
Non-glandular trichomes are found on the top and bottom of the leaves. Non-glandular trichomes fall into one of two categories:
- Trichomes with cystolite have a characteristic bear claw shape and may have calcium cystoliths resembling buttons visible at their bases. They are on the upper surface of leaves, and vary from 150 to 220 microns in height.
- No to cytolite or single-cell single most often found on the lower side of the leaves, bracts and bracteoles and tend to be thin and thin.
Female plants are particularly rich in glandular trichomes. These are mainly associated with the structures of the flowers. But they can also be found on the underside of the leaves. And, sometimes even on the stems of young plants. Glandular types can occur as a small bulbous trichome with a single-celled stem.
The sessile glands, 25 microns, unite with the epidermis by means of a single cell which serves as their stem. This head has secretory cells in its lower part. While the cannabinoids and essential oils secreted by these cells are stored in the separate part of the membrane. For comparison, human hair is 75 microns and a red blood cell is 5 microns ...
These heads swell as the secretory cells produce compounds, reaching a size of 70-100 microns. Glandular trichomes are listed in one of three categories:
- Bulbous trichomes - barely visible at 15-30 microns. They can be found everywhere. But, they do not produce cannabinoids or terpenes ...
- Glandular sessile - measure from 25 to 100 microns in diameter and have a globule-shaped head. These are the most common, as they occur on the stems, leaves, and bracts. Sessile glandular trichomes produce cannabinoids throughout the plant's life cycle. But they have much lower levels than the capitulate glandulars.
- Glandular trichomes capitulated - measure from 150 to 500 microns tall and look like tiny mushrooms. They are the main source of cannabinoid oil, and terpenes. The capitulate glandulars do not develop until after flower formation, and occur mainly on the bracts.
The protective role
The amount and dominant type of trichomes on a given cannabis plant is in part genetic. The formation of resin glands is highly dependent on genetics and the sum of all environmental factors. However, in addition to housing the essential compounds of the cannabis plant, the trichome plays an important role in the survival of the plant. Thus, the sticky resin surface provides a natural defense against fungi, insects and predators such as herbivores which cannot penetrate the slimy barrier. Or, who are deterred because they find the flavor and / or texture unpleasant ...
In fact, THCA and CBGA have been shown to be toxic to certain species of insects. Trichomes also reduce the (over) heating effect caused by sunlight. The glandular resin buds bind UV rays, acting as a natural sunscreen, so they don't harm growing buds or cause mutations in the plant ...
Determine the harvest time
As an annual plant, cannabis has two growth periods: vegetative and flowering. In the vegetative stage, the plant grows rapidly and produces minimal amounts of medicinal compounds. At the flowering stage, the biosynthesis of cannabinoids is accelerated and reaches the highest level. By monitoring the color change of the gland heads, a grower can assess the maturity of the plants. During flowering, the trichomes will be mostly clear. While during the final phase of the flowering cycle, they will turn from a light color, to a milky color and eventually to amber.
Most experienced growers say the harvest time is perfect, when the “carpet” is cloudy. That is to say a percentage representing approximately a mixture of 70% amber / 30% non amber. Of course, there are many other factors that determine the best time for harvesting. But trichomes are a good litmus test to avoid harvesting too soon or too late.
Also, the new flowers actually develop on the old ones. It also means that there are trichomes at different stages of development. It is important to make sure that most of your plant is ready before harvest. One method some growers use is to just harvest the top half of the plant and leave half of the inferior flowering for about a month. But, the cannabis buds that have been carefully harvested, respecting the protective role of trichomes are probably more fragrant, tasty and more effective than manipulated buds, with a compromised "trichomatic" structure ...