Have you ever taken a close look at a fresh cannabis bud before? If so, you’ve likely noticed the sticky, crystalline-looking coating on the exterior. What looks like a layer of a shiny substance is actually small growths known as trichomes. Just what are these cannabis trichomes, and what do they mean for you? Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Trichomes?

The word “trichome” comes from a Greek word that translates to “growth of hair.” If you were to look at a fresh cannabis bud under a microscope, you’d see why. Trichomes look just like tiny crystalline hairs.

Trichomes appear as the cannabis plant enters its flowering stage, as well as just before the buds are ready for harvest. They’re extremely volatile and can break, rupture, or degrade as a result of mishandling. Light, heat, and oxygen exposure can also harm the trichomes, which can also harm the essential oils, cannabinoids, and other compounds inside.


Types of Trichomes

Three types of trichomes appear on cannabis plants:

  • Bulbous: These trichomes are the smallest. They’re all over the plant, but they’re so small that they’re practically invisible to the naked eye.
  • Capitate-sessile: These trichomes are larger than bulbous trichomes, and hold more cannabinoids and other compounds. They’re also more common.
  • Capitate-stalked: These are the largest trichomes, and can be viewed with the naked eye. They consist of a stalk as well as a gland head, which contains a majority of the plant’s cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds.

What Do Trichomes Do?

Many types of plants produce trichomes. Their job is to keep the plants safe and healthy. On cannabis, their job is to deter pests that would otherwise destroy the plants. Strong scents and flavors drive ants, mites, deer, and other creatures away. At the same time, trichomes also function to protect the plants from harmful UV rays and potentially damaging winds. They can even protect against harmful fungi.

Why Are Trichomes Important?

The entire cannabis plant contains cannabinoids. The trichomes, however, contain the most concentrated active compounds. Compared to the rest of the cannabis plant, the trichomes contain greater amounts of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and more.

While the trichomes grow on the plant, they’re the part that produces the cannabinoids and terpenes. Without them, your favorite strain wouldn’t have the effects you’ve grown to know and love.

If you’re growing cannabis at home, you can also use the trichomes as an indication that the buds are ready for harvesting. Clear trichomes indicate that your plant isn’t fully mature yet. Cloudy trichomes that have taken on an opaque or amber color, on the other hand, indicate that your flowers are nearing their optimal cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

Along with protecting cannabis plants from harm, trichomes play an essential role in the flavor, aroma, and overall experience. They play a critical role in everything you love about your favorite strains. Growers and budtenders handle buds carefully to ensure that they stay intact so that you get the most out of them, trichomes, and all.