What Are Trichomes?

Have you ever looked at a cannabis bud very closely and noticed small, hair-like strands poking out from it? These are called trichomes and are quite important to these buds. Not only do they contain important cannabinoids and others of the sort, but they also aid the plant during the growing process. In addition, not all of these are the same, as there are different classifications for many of them.

Trichomes are found in a variety of other plants besides cannabis. They are mainly used as defenses for the plant: scaring off anything that may be a threat to the plant. In some plants (those that are carnivorous), they help the plant trap and capture its prey. However, for the sake of our topic, we will be focusing on the trichomes that are found only in cannabis plants (and the three different types that are found in our beloved plant).

What They Do

For those who use cannabis, the main benefit of trichomes is that they are packed full of cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids, such as THC, allow you to get high from the plant. Others, most notably CBD, offer various medical properties and are the reason why medical patients use cannabis. Terpenes, on the other hand, give cannabis its flavors and aromas.

During cultivation, trichomes protect the cannabis plant from harmful ultraviolet rays and even levels of humidity. This is especially true for plants that are grown outdoors, as they can be faced with more threats than those grown indoors.

If, for some odd reason, you were to take a bite of your cannabis plant at any time during its growing phase (before harvest), it would taste very bitter. This is due to the trichomes present: they do this as a defense mechanism to make the plant seem undesirable to animals and insects that may want to eat it. So remember, never take a bite of your cannabis plant. Instead, make some edibles!

How To Spot Them

Cannabis Trichomes Close Up
Trichomes up close

To spot trichomes on your cannabis plant, you must look very closely. Even better, use a microscope or magnifying glass for an even clearer view. They will appear as tiny, white hairs poking out of the buds. This is where the term “frosty buds” comes from, as they may make your buds look as if there was snow on them.

During the early stages of plant growth, trichomes will appear clear and translucent. As they grow, they will slowly shift from clear to cloudy. Once they are no longer clear, this is a sign to growers that the cannabinoids within have reached full maturity, and harvest is near.

The Fragility Of Trichomes

Even though they work to protect a cannabis plant during growth, trichomes are also quite fragile and delicate. Still growing or already harvested, they should be treated with gentle care. By carefully handling your buds, you can potentially preserve many of the cannabinoids and terpenes from within.

There are many ways in which trichomes can be destroyed. One common way is simply physical contact. If not handled with care, an agitated bud may shed off many of its trichomes. Breaking down buds with your hands can remove many of them. Instead, try using a grinder, which can catch the fallen tiny hairs and group them, which is known as kief.

Too much heat and/or light on a cannabis plant can also destroy trichomes. Even time can ruin them; if a plant is not harvested at its peak, the cannabinoids and terpenes will slowly begin to degrade. This is something that cultivators should pay close attention to if they wish to maximize the potential of their plants.

Cultivators should always carefully handle buds during and after harvest. In addition, trimming should be done carefully. When trimming buds, the trichomes can be easily cut off, so growers must be extra cautious not to lose any (or at least too many).

Types of Trichomes

As mentioned above, three different types of trichomes are found in cannabis plants. Below, the three are listed in order of abundance.


These are the largest and most abundant of the three types. They are sized at around 50-100 micrometers and are the only trichomes that can be seen by the naked eye. Many cultivators look for these as a sign of harvest time. Capitate-Stalked generate both cannabinoids and terpenes.


Next up, Capitate-Sessile trichomes are slightly smaller than capitate-stalked. These are around 25-50 micrometers in length and are less abundant than the ones above. Of the three types, these look the most like mushrooms, with skinny stems and wider heads. Capitate-Sessile only produces cannabinoids.


Lastly, we have bulbous trichomes. These are the smallest, at around 10-25 micrometers in length. To view these, you would need a microscope. One of these trichomes is about the size of a handful of cells. Bulbous trichomes have the least effect on a cannabis plant.

FAQ: What Are Trichomes?

What are trichomes?

Answer: Trichomes are specialized structures on plants that are composed of an outer layer of epidermis and an inner layer of parenchyma cells. These structures produce and secrete oils, waxes, and resins which have unique properties.

What are the functions of trichomes?

Answer: The functions of trichomes vary depending on the plant, but they can serve a variety of purposes such as providing protection from pests, providing solar protection, and producing and secreting oils, waxes, and resins.

Are trichomes the same as crystals?

Answer: No, trichomes are not the same as crystals. Crystals are solid aggregates of atoms exhibiting crystalline form, while trichomes are structures consisting of an outer epidermal layer and an inner parenchyma layer.

Are trichomes visible?

Answer: Trichomes are typically visible to the naked eye and often appear as small, hair-like projections on the surface of plants.

That was all you need to know about trichomes. Hopefully, this post cleared up any misconception you may have had about these tiny hairs, and now you know the importance of them. Remember, handle your buds with care so that you can preserve as many trichomes as possible. Thanks for reading!

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Evan Weston

Evan Weston is a contributor to Reefer Posts, a growing community for exploring the developing market of Cannabis and CBD-related products. He spends a lot of time researching the development of health-related products that utilize Cannabis and CBD oils. He also keeps tabs on the developing legal environment regarding medical, recreational cannabis use, and production.

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