In any classic close up macro photograph of a cannabis flower, there are always tiny crystals that cover the entire bud. It doesn’t matter what strain, it doesn’t matter who took the photo — those crystal are there.
Those crystals are called trichomes, and you can thank them for making weed sticky and aromatic. At its most basic, a trichrome is “a small hair or other outgrowth from the epidermis of a plant, typically unicellular and glandular.” They are on many different types of plants (including tomatoes and mint), but trichomes are most known thanks to cannabis.
Here’s everything you need to know about trichomes.
What trichomes do
Trichomes are thought to function as a defense mechanism against insects, according to the University of Kentucky. Chemicals at the tip of the trichome repel insects, and the mere physical presence of a mass of trichomes can prevent insects from munching on the bud.
The secondary chemicals cause a bitter taste and an unappetizing aroma to insects. At the same time, trichomes can shade plants and enable it to survive in hotter and drier climates.
Trichomes on cannabis come in three general types.
Bulbous: The smallest of the trichomes, and looks like a stalk with a round head on top. At the head of bulbous trichomes is a resin of cannabinoids and other compounds. Find the bulbous variety on any part of the plant that’s above ground.
Capitate-Sessile: Larger than bulbous trichomes and more numerous. They have a round head and stalk, but on young plants, the head appears to sit right on the plant, thus capitate-sessile. The head contains cannabinoids and other compounds.
Capitate-Stalked: The most abundant trichomes and the most obvious. The capitate-stalked are like the capitate-sessile, only with a stalk (hence the name). They cover flowers and the small leaves around the flower.
Why you should care about Trichomes
Marijuana’s essential oils are made in and accumulate in the trichomes. That means the THC, the CBD, and the terpenoids. In fact, most of the active ingredients are in the sticky trichomes. Flowers have the most trichomes, while leaves and stems have a significantly less concentration of trichomes.
Without those trichomes — especially those bulbous capitate-stalked trichomes — marijuana wouldn’t be marijuana. So thank your trichomes ever day.