What Are Trichomes and Why Do They Exist?
Seasoned cannabis enthusiasts are immediately drawn to trichomes. They use trichomes to interpret the story of a strain and how it was grown. The frosty, silvery cast over a cannabis flower is one of the best ways to determine its quality and potency. They’re kind of a big deal.
If you’re new to CBD, cannabis trichomes can be a little confusing. What are they, what is their importance to the plant, and why do they indicate that a strain will have a bitter taste or even be effective?
What is a Trichome?
In layman’s terms, trichomes are plant hair. You’ll often see the terms interchanged when speaking about cannabis.
If you look at cannabis close up, or if you look at close-up photos of cannabis, you’ll see thousands of tiny hairs like protrusions that are frosty with a clear-like layer of quartz crystals. These are the plant’s trichomes. They develop all over the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. Many of what scientists know about trichome development comes from Arabidopsis thaliana, a model organism.
Trichomes aren’t specific to cannabis. Carnivorous plants like venus flytraps use trichomes to sense and catch their prey. When you harvest long trichomes, the growth of hair runs all over the stalks of tomato plants. Tomato plants produce very long trichomes with significant density, which is why they appear fuzzy.
How the Cannabis Plant Makes Trichomes
The cannabis plant naturally produces cannabinoids. The trichomes are a crucial part of this process. In fact, they’re the key part of this process. Without trichomes, cannabis would lack potency.
When the plant is ready to flower, trichomes form on the parts of the plant above the soil. Trichomes are composed of a stalk, the long hairlike part that emerges from the plant, and a head, the little bit that looks like a sparkly crystal.
The trichomes spring up to help the plant carry valuable compounds that act as the precursors to cannabinoids, leading them to the head of the trichome. In short, the plant produces trichomes to produce cannabinoids. They’re a key first step in the process.
The amount of trichomes a plant produces, as well as the speed at which it produces them, depends on a lot of factors. The genetics of the plant plays an important role, which is why some strains of cannabis will feature more trichomes than others. The second determining factor is the health and care of the plant. Healthy plants do everything more efficiently, including trichome production.
What Do Trichomes Do for The Plant?
Plants are unable to protect themselves. When female cannabis plants enter the flowering stage, they use trichomes as a method of self-defense. Trichomes produce terpenes, and terpenes are the plant’s way of speaking to the animals and insects surrounding it.
Terpenes are strong aromatic compounds that send signals. Animals and insects both rely on scent as one of the key senses they use for navigating the world. The scent emitted by the trichomes will relay different things to different insects and animals.
The aroma the clear trichomes release is often perceived as undesirable to herbivorous predators who may attempt to eat the cannabis. The strong aroma of the terpenes will also deter some destructive insects. Pollinators often find terpenes enticing and will visit the plant to assist in its quest to reproduce.
Some terpenes produced by trichomes act as mild, natural antifungal agents. They help to ward off disease and preserve the health of the plant.
There are Three Different Types of Trichomes
The plant covers itself in very tiny little trichomes called bulbous trichomes. These act like a blanket that covers every bit of the plant. They aren’t very easy to see without a microscope. Simply touching the stalk or the leaves of the plant is enough to destroy these trichomes permanently.
The second type of trichomes is the capitate sessile trichomes. These trichomes are complete. They have a stalk and a head, which enables them to produce cannabinoids and trichomes. They’re only slightly larger than the bulbous trichomes, and you likely won’t be able to see them.
The largest trichomes are the crystal-like structures you can see when you’re looking at cannabis flower buds. They’re called capitate-stalked trichomes, and they do most of the heavy lifting. They’re larger in size, and they’re far more productive than other types of trichomes. The overwhelming majority of cannabinoids and terpenes are produced by these trichomes and stored in the frosty heads.
When people evaluate the quality of a strain based on its trichomes, it’s the capitate-stalked trichomes they’re referring to. The presence of other trichomes is always great, but they’re not capable of generating the same cannabinoid and terpene output.
How Trichomes Indicate Cannabis Quality
The trichomes contain a vast wealth of cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis plant. You can tell how potent or aromatic a strain is simply by observing the presence of its trichomes. If a cannabis flower has a frosty white cast, that means the flower is extremely potent.
It also indicates that the flower was grown well and handled properly. Healthy plants grown to the highest standard will produce the maximum amount of trichomes that the genetics of a plant will allow.
Trichomes are always a sign that the plant thrived. A lack of trichomes or a minimal number of trichomes indicates that cannabis is old, weak, or of poor quality.
Trichomes are Very Sensitive
Trichomes are very delicate. They’re prone to being crushed or falling off if cannabis is handled improperly or stored at the wrong temperature. If a flower has prominent trichomes, that means it was properly dried, cured, and stored.
Growers work very hard to protect these trichomes, and once the cannabis leaves their hands, it’s up to the person who removes the cannabis from its dispensary-ready packaging to maintain the trichomes.
The plant only continues to synthesize cannabinoids and terpenes through the trichomes while it’s alive. The cannabis you receive from the dispensary is dried and cured. It’s naturally preserved in time. It won’t make any new cannabinoids or terpenes, which is why it’s so important to protect the trichomes.
How to Protect Your Trichomes
Growers went to great lengths to produce high-quality cannabis plants and protect their trichomes. When you bring that cannabis home, all you need to do is maintain the work they’ve already done. It’s not difficult to do if you’re using the right cannabis storage tools.
Handle Your Cannabis as Little as Possible
If you have beautiful cannabis that smells delicious, you may feel tempted to handle it. It’s best to observe your cannabis from its storage vessel. Every time you handle the flower, you risk damaging the trichomes. It’s better to admire your flower from afar.
Avoid Light and Extreme Temperatures
Light and heat cause cannabinoids and terpenes to convert, degrade, and eventually cook off. When the flower is still attached to the plant, this is less of a problem. It can continuously manage its stores. After it’s been harvested, they’ve reached the end of the line.
Cannabis should be stored in a light proof container and kept at room temperature. Don’t store it in a warm area of your home, like a space near a window or a heater.
Cold can be just as damaging to trichomes, so don’t store your cannabis in the refrigerator or the freezer. When trichomes freeze, they become brittle and snap off.
The terpenes in your trichomes want to evaporate. They’re designed to evaporate. They send repelling signals to predators and attract signals to pollinators by wafting through the air. You want to be able to enjoy these terpenes for their flavors and aromas, and you can’t allow them to escape.
Store your cannabis in a container with an air-tight lid to prevent terpenes from escaping.
Maintain Perfect Humidity
Cannabis needs to be stored at a consistent and ideal humidity level to keep the trichomes intact and prevent the flower from drying out. When the flower dries out, it withers up and the trichomes fall away.
Storing your cannabis in a humidor or putting a humidity pack in your storage container is the easiest way to keep the humidity at an ideal level.
Stori Does it All
Properly storing your cannabis is just good common sense. Your cannabis is like a fine wine, and you wouldn’t wrap your fine wine in an old sock and tuck it under your mattress. Don’t treat your cannabis that way.
The Stori Case has everything you need to store your cannabis and protect its priceless trichomes properly. The Stori case comes with six lightproof aluminum pods for storing cannabis flower, and six lightproof aluminum tubes for storing pre-rolls.
The child-resistant lids are airtight to protect your cannabis, and color-coded to help you keep your stash organized. You can label the lids with the cannabis strains contained in each Stori pod.
Inside of every lid, there’s a little place to stick a Boveda size 1 humidity pack. This pack will manage the humidity of the pod and protect your terpenes. It requires almost no effort on your part. Just put the pack in and replace it when it eventually starts to harden. It’s really that easy.
Venus Flytrap | National Wildlife Federation
What Influences Degradation of THC and Other Cannabinoids? | Leafly
How Evaporation of Terpenes in Cannabis Can Cost You | Boveda