Cannabis Trichomes – What They Are & What They Do

Canada’s legalization of cannabis has paved the way for research into its recreational and medicinal benefits, but it’s also made language surrounding its use and information more technical. For new users unfamiliar with cannabis, recognizing and identifying all the technical jargon used to describe cannabis can be challenging, even for essential parts of the plant such as trichomes.

Cannabis trichomes are an essential element of the cannabis plant. As the part of the plant responsible for producing a cannabis plant’s aroma, flavour and effects, trichomes are foundational to the cannabis experience.

Today, we’ll be diving into what cannabis trichomes are, the types of trichomes you can find on cannabis plants and how and why they’re so important in cannabis flowers.

What are Trichomes? What Do They Do?

Derived from the Greek word “Tríchōma,” which means “hair,” trichomes are present on various algae, lichens and plants, taking on a variety of different forms and serving many different purposes. Some plants have developed to utilize trichomes as a form of self-defence, while others, such as the ones in cannabis, produce unique compounds and oils.

Found on cannabis flowers, cannabis trichomes have a natural hair-like appearance. Some studies suggest that they play a role in plant defence for the survival of the cannabis plant, protecting bitter terpenes to deter animals from eating them. Other studies have suggested that the THC produced within cannabis trichomes protects the cannabis plant from UV radiation, which has allowed different landrace strains of cannabis to thrive in different environments.

While the scientific community has yet to reach a consensus on the role of trichomes, it’s certain that they’re essential in the cannabis experience for their production of terpenes and cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. You might even know dried trichomes by their slang name; kief.

Still, not all trichomes found on cannabis plants affect the cannabis experience equally.

Here are the three major types of cannabis trichomes and what they do:

Types of Cannabis Trichomes

While trichomes are responsible for cannabinoids, terpene and other essential cannabis compound production, only glandular trichomes can achieve this function. Non-glandular trichomes, also known as cystoliths, protect against the environment and predators by producing other compounds.

However, the glandular trichomes found within the cannabis plant are theorized to be capable of doing both. Here’s what the three glandular trichomes are like in cannabis plants and what their functions are:

Bulbous Trichomes

bulbous trichomes

Bulbous trichomes are the smallest type of trichomes found on the cannabis plant. Bulbous trichomes cover the entire plant. Some researchers believe that their overall coverage of the cannabis plant is to provide protection against UV rays, defend against high winds and help keep water available.

Capitate Sessile Trichomes

capitate sessile trichomes

Capitate sessile trichomes are slightly larger than bulbous trichomes and appear as little bumps on the plant’s surface. While bulbous trichomes are microscopic, capitates sessile trichomes can be seen with the naked eye and cover the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. Capitate sessile trichomes contain cannabinoids and terpenes and are highly sought out in cannabis cultivation.

Capitate-Stalked Trichomes

capitate stalked trichomes

Capitate-stalked trichomes are the largest of the trichomes and can be easily seen with the naked eye. Capitate-stalked trichomes are roughly five times the size of sessile trichomes and coat the entire plant surface, including the sugar leaves and buds. Capitate-stalked trichomes produce the most terpenes and cannabinoids and are often used to create hash.

A Critical Component of the Cannabis Plant

While they might just look like glandular hairs on your favourite cannabis strains, trichome development is highly sought out in cannabis cultivation and can be used to create a variety of cannabis extracts and products. Responsible for the aroma, flavour and potency of your favourite cannabis strains, modern cannabis growers endeavour to maximize trichome production to offer better experiences for cannabis users.

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