Cannabis harvesting: what happens when trichomes become matted?
What does it mean when cannabis trichomes are dull?
Knowing the various colourings of these glands is essential for a good harvest of marijuana buds.
In this article, we will try to answer this question.
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Let’s get started!
Let’s start with the basics: what are trichomes, and what are they used for?
This is a question that many people have asked themselves.
Trichomes are epidermal cells that appear on the surface of the flowers and leaves of marijuana plants and evolve from a simple sphere to a mushroom-like stalk. Depending on the variety and the plants’ general condition, the trichomes’ quantity and size will be greater or smaller.
Trichomes contain the main psychoactive substances of marijuana, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), as well as some terpenes that interact with the effect produced by marijuana.
You should know that these glands have different functions in the plant, but let’s go in order.
Their production can be observed in many plant species throughout nature, taking various physical forms and serving many different purposes. For example, trichomes present in some carnivorous plants help trap prey.
When female cannabis plants begin producing flowers, they often become vulnerable to various insects, animals and environmental conditions, such as excessive exposure to potentially harmful UV rays.
Trichomes act as a deterrent to animals because their bitter taste and intense aromas make cannabis flowers unpalatable. But, at the same time, they also perform the dual function of protecting against damaging winds and even certain strains of fungi.
So, to summarise, here are the main functions of these glands:
- they protect the plant from certain insects that will get stuck on the sticky trichomes;
- they prevent substances from being consumed by animals: substances such as tetrahydrocannabinol and other cannabinoids that are generated in these glands have psychoactive effects, making the plant unpalatable to many animals;
- prevent desiccation: trichomes also have the function of preventing marijuana flowers and seeds from being damaged in low humidity, as can happen in summer;
- protection from ultraviolet radiation: excessive ultraviolet radiation, particularly UV-B radiation, is also harmful to plants. The THC produced by the resin helps to absorb this radiation and protect them. The more radiation the plant receives, the more resin it produces.
Examining trichomes: what it means when they are dull in colour
Since the cultivation of cannabis is a highly delicate process, it is essential to carefully observe the development of trichomes during the plant’s flowering process.
By observing the colour and, in particular, the opacity of trichomes, growers can often determine the best time to harvest.
However, it can be tough to identify when a trichome is cloudy or clear because these glands undergo numerous phases.
This difficulty is also increased because trichomes are tiny, ranging from 10 micrometres to a maximum of 500 micrometres.
Because of their tiny size, trichomes are best observed under a microscope, where they appear as small hairs on the surface of the cannabis plant. Specifically, growers should focus on trichomes that resemble the shape of a mushroom, as these are the ones that contain most of the psychoactive and medicinal compounds that make cannabis such a unique and desirable plant.
This inspection will help the grower accurately assess the trichomic stage a plant is in and whether it is ready for harvest.
As we mentioned earlier, the colour of trichomes is the primary indicator of when they are ripe, as they change appearance during flowering depending on the plant’s maturity stage.
- in the first half of flowering, the trichomes are almost transparent or crystalline;
- in the second half of flowering and ripening, they take on a whitish or milky colour until they become almost opaque white;
- when the trichomes degrade or oxidise, they become amber-coloured.
So when is the time to harvest cannabis?
The advice is to harvest when 80-90% of the trichomes are milky, and the remainder is amber-coloured to obtain the original effect of each variety.
Like pistils, trichomes do not all form at the same time and, therefore, will not all be at the same stage at the same time.
In this article, we have tried to give an overview of the role of trichomes in the cannabis plant and the significance of its amber colour.
As you have read, correctly interpreting the colouration of these glands is a crucial skill for growers because it enables them to harvest the buds at the right time.
See you soon!