So What is a Trichome?
Trichomes are glandular hairs, scales, and papillae typically found on the exterior of the plant’s vegetation. They are often of a complex structure and can have a wide array of functions. At one time or another when you’ve gotten some high-grade cannabis, you may have stopped to examine its beauty. When looking at buds, you will often see miniature hairs (trichomes) covering it and the leaves, and on those tiny hairs are often THC crystals. Trichomes are actually the sole producers of the over 400 different cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that are so highly cherished by cannabis enthusiasts.
Many different plants produce trichomes for various functions. One example of a function would be the trichomes on the Venus’ flytrap which serve to trap prey for this insectivorous plant. When it comes to cannabis, trichomes were developed as a defense mechanism. Due to the strong smell and taste of the various compounds produced by the plant’s trichomes, animals and insects are less likely to bother it. In addition to protecting against animals and insects, they also serve to protect the plants from potentially harmful winds as well as various types of fungal growth.
While there are a large variety of different types of trichomes, there are essentially three types that are commonly found in cannabis.
- Bulbous trichomes – They are usually between 10 and 15 micrometers tall and cover the entire surface of the plant.
- Capitate sessile trichomes – Slightly larger than bulbous trichomes, they are comprised of both a head and a stalk.
- Capitate-stalked trichomes – Usually coming in between 50 and 100mm wide they are much easier to see unaided by magnifying paraphernalia than the previous two. The structure of these trichomes includes a stalk that attaches to a large gland head which then becomes the main producer of cannabinoids and other chemicals.
While all three major trichome types produce the various chemicals found in cannabis, the capitate-stalked trichomes will usually end up producing the largest quantity of essential oils because of their size. As cannabis plants reach their bloom phase, they start to produce flowers. Trichomes then begin to form on the outer surface of the plant vegetation. These trichomes then begin transporting vacuoles and plastids from their stalk to the gland head. Once some of the cells comprising the gland head begin to metabolize, precursors that inevitably become cannabinoids and other various chemicals are formed.
The production level and concentration of trichomes on a specific plant well be decided by various genetic and environmental factors. But, just because a plant has a higher concentration of trichomes, does not mean it will produce a larger amount of the desired chemicals such as cannabinoids and terpenes. More often than not, plants that received a higher spectrum of light will produce more cannabinoids than a plant that did not, regardless of trichome concentration.
When growing and storing cannabis, it seems wise to note that certain elements can slowly damage and/or destroy trichomes. The most common variables that degrade trichomes are physical contact, light, heat, oxygen, and time. For this reason, it’s important to store cannabis in airtight containers, preferably in a dark cool area.