The resinous glands on cannabis buds that contain the plant’s cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds. Strains with a heavy coating of trichomes typically have more cannabinoids and terpenes.

“The trichomes on this Runtz are so frosty!”

“The more trichomes a bud has, the stronger it’ll be.”

What are trichomes?

Trichomes grow on several plant species as a multifaceted defense mechanism, whether it be as a protective layer against harsh weather, assisting carnivorous plants in catching prey or deterring bugs and animals from eating roots. In cannabis, trichomes can produce hundreds of different compounds to protect themselves from pests, including the blend of terpenes and cannabinoids our endocannabinoid systems interact with. 

There are three main groups of trichomes that grow on cannabis: bulbous, capitate sessile, and capitate-stalked, the latter of which is the only variety visible to the human eye. Capitate-stalked trichomes resemble tiny white mushrooms and are primarily responsible for the frosty and sticky qualities of a cannabis nug, in addition to aroma and cannabinoid potency.

Why are trichomes important?

Trichomes not only determine the flavor, taste, and effects of a cannabis strain, they also are a sign of quality to consumers and growers alike. The color and clarity of a cannabis plant’s visible trichomes signal the optimal harvest time—when a plant has reached peak maturity, the crystalline trichomes will turn cloudy or even change color.

A trichome has a range of three colors. These colors point to the ripeness and general health of the trichome. Ripe, healthy trichomes will be milky white; unripe trichomes will be clear; and overripe or diseased trichomes will be amber or brown. A milky white trichome will offer the consumer the best a plant has to offer. 

Even if a cannabis plant has the genetics to produce quality trichomes, its environment can quickly make that irrelevant. Light, oxygen, heat, and time are all crucial to the development of healthy trichomes, however, they can all degrade trichomes if the plant receives too much. Degraded trichomes lead to less potent and less flavorful buds.