Today we’re talking about trichomes - those tiny little crystal-looking structures that cover the leaves and buds of cannabis.
The word trichomes comes from the Greek word trichōma, meaning hair. Trichomes are fine outgrowths on plants, algae and lichens. On cannabis they tend to be shiny, sticky, carry intense aromas and kind of look like a blanket of frost at first glance.
So what do they do? Well, they are essentially tiny factories that produce the hundreds of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that give cannabis strains varying degrees of potency and effectiveness in medicinal cannabis.
You can see trichomes in many plant species in various physical forms and serving many purposes. Did you have a Venus fly trap as a kid? It’s on the inner surface of the lobes where flies land that you’ll find trichomes - tiny hair-like projections that cause the lobes to snap shut when a fly comes in contact with them.
In cannabis, trichomes function as a defense mechanism. When female cannabis plants begin to produce flowers in the wild, they often become vulnerable to various insects and animals as well as environmental variables such as potentially harmful UV rays. Trichomes serve as a deterrent for animals because their bitter taste and strong aromas make the flowers unpalatable. At the same time, they also protect the plant from damaging winds and even some varieties of fungal growth.
There are 3 different types of trichomes that appear most often on cannabis. Bulbous trichomes are the smallest and they appear on the surface of the entire plant. They can be as small as 10-15 micrometres, which is tiny enough to comprise a handful of cells. 1 micrometre is 1000th of a millimetre. Tiny!
Capitate sessile trichomes are slightly larger and contain both a head and a stalk. These trichomes are more abundant than the bulbous trichomes.
Then there are capitate-stalked trichomes which range from 50-100 micrometres wide, meaning they’re larger and can be seen by the naked eye. They consist of a stalk that attaches to a large gland head. It’s the head, held together by a waxy layer, that serves as the epicentre for cannabinoid and terpenoid synthesis.These little beauties in the photos are part of our medicinal cannabis pilot research programme. They’ve since made their way to labs primarily to understand the cannabinoid profiles but also to test against the medicinal cannabis minimum quality standards and the terpene profile.