Understanding the diversity of cannabis can be challenging. When you see one of your favorite strains with those tiny little crystals on the leaves and buds, it probably occurred to you at least once what they are. These cookies are always shiny, sticky, and carry the best smells. Yet if we take a closer look, the frosty sheets that make up these dewdrops become visible as collections of tiny ice crystals known as trichomes.
The actual definition of trichome is “fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, lichens, and certain protists.“Trichomes,” which are small mushroom-shaped protuberances, originate from the Greek word meaning “growth of hair.” These tiny features look like something out of a science fiction novel. But they are the very factories that produce hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that make our favorite cannabis strains potent, unique, and effective.
The function of trichomes on cannabis
Cannabis plants have a natural defense against insects and animals. When female plants begin to produce flowers in the wild, they often become vulnerable to various dangers such as UV rays. Trichomes serve as a deterrent for animals because their strong aromas and bitter taste make the plants unpalatable. At the same time, these structures also serve a dual function in protecting their plants from damaging winds and even some varieties of fungal growth.
The different types of trichomes on cannabis
Trichomes, or the fine hairs on cannabis plants, exist in many shapes and sizes, but three of them predominantly appear.
Bulbous trichomes are the smallest out of all the other ones, and they show up on surfaces throughout the length of a plant. Trichomes are small enough to be comprised of only a few cells; this size is as small as 10-15 micrometers.
Capitate sessile trichomes are larger than acicular and stalkless, with ahead at the top of the hair shaft. These, on the other hand, are far more common than their bulbous cousins but pales in comparison to the size and abundance of third trichomes.
Capitate-stalked trichomes can be 50 to 100 micrometers wide. For reference, this is thicker than human hair and can be seen with the naked eye. Their structure consists of a stalk made up of various cells which accumulate to form a small and spherical head that attaches to a large gland. This gland-like structure, held together by a waxy cuticle layer, serves as the epicenter for cannabinoid and terpenoid synthesis.
There are three types of glands on cannabis plants. Capitate-stalked trichomes appear under the calyxes and contain the highest concentration of cannabinoids, while others are limited to various floral parts.
If you’re new to cannabis cultivation, you may want to try the products after they’re harvested. Follow this guide to learn the best time to harvest marijuana as well as key indicators that tell you when plants are ready for harvesting.
How to know when to harvest cannabis
As a grower, you’ll be able to tell when your cannabis plants are ready to harvest by following these visual clues:
Trichome color: Trichomes on flowers can be used as an indicator to harvest the plant. Ideally, half of the trichomes should appear to be milky white and the other half should be a vivid amber. We recommend waiting a little longer before harvesting when the trichomes are clear. Of all the signs to look for, the color of trichomes is most reliable. This color change might not be visible to the naked eye, so make sure to have a magnifying glass ready.
Leaf color: One of the best indicators that a marijuana plant is ready to harvest is the changing shades of its fan leaves. Leaves are green because of nitrogen during the flowering stage. When leaves turn yellow and start to fall off, it’s a sign that nitrogen levels are decreasing.
Curling leaves: As fans turn from green to yellow, they may also curl and dry. As harvest time draws near, cannabis plants need less water because they are not absorbing much liquid.
How can you tell if it’s too early to harvest cannabis?
Trichomes will let you know if your crop is not yet ready for harvest, just as they signal the best time to start harvesting. If most of the trichomes are clear, then the cannabis plants are not ready to harvest. Trichomes with a transparent, clear appearance likely signify that resin production is not yet at its peak and the weed will produce less potency, flavor, and aroma.
How can you tell if it’s too late to harvest cannabis?
Check out the trichomes, and if they’re mostly amber you should take them off the plant. Your harvested weed may be unpleasant to taste right now. A telltale sign of THC degradation is the shift in the ratio between milky white trichomes and amber ones. When a marijuana plant fails to reach maturity due to poor conduct on the part of growers, trichomes can turn black. Trichomes can become brittle when their color changes from amber to dark brown or black. Overripe Cannabis buds often develop a type of small, thin layer on the surface that may break apart when you touch it.
Harvesting cannabis before it is ripe in the hopes of its health benefits being preserved may not be a good option. Harvesting cannabis during its late-stage can make the terpenes, which have medicinal properties, more potent without sacrificing flavor or scent.
Next steps after harvesting cannabis
After you harvest your marijuana plants, the drying, trimming, and curing process is essential to achieving a quality product. Once these steps are complete, your weed will be ready to enjoy or store for future use. If storing cannabis, be sure to store it in a vacuum-sealed container and keep the storage place cool and dark so that the freshness and shelf life can last longer.