While many features of the Cannabis plant are associated with human health benefits, it has one component of exceptional importance: the trichome. To the naked eye, trichomes are recognized as the translucent, crystal-like hairs on the flower buds. If you were to view them under a microscope, however, you would see thousands of glistening, resin-filled glands on the surface of the plant’s leaves, buds and stems.

A Significant Step Beyond Survival

Trichomes are epidermal outgrowths that play an important role in nature, particularly in plants. In general, trichomes serve as a defense system to protect the plant from predators such as, insects or birds, inhibit the growth of certain fungi, and guard against environmental elements. Many plants have trichomes, however the Cannabis plant is unique. In addition to producing its own immune and defense system, one of its trichomes—Capitate-stalked trichome—performs an important function. Specifically, the Capitate-stalked trichome facilitates the maturation of the plant’s medicinal properties accredited to Cannabis.

Where the Magic Happens

As the female plant matures, these tall, glandular trichomes sprout from the plant’s cells into crystalline structures that resemble tiny glass mushrooms on the flower bracts. The bract, a stem-like piece, or “stalk,” serves as a tunnel through which the chemical compounds are transported from the plant’s cells to the cap-shaped “head” of the trichome. The head is made of a hard, outer shell, which encases an oil-rich interior that contains the plant’s medicinal compounds and a vast majority of its aromatic compounds (terpenes).

The Kinetic Kaleidoscope

As the trichomes catalyze this chemical process, they evolve physically, exhibiting a colorful metamorphosis over a period of time. The outer head is clear before advancing through a series of color changes, ranging from milky white to amber to a deep, reddish brown, and finally turning black when the plant reaches its final life stage. This final stage is a result of the chemical transformation occurring inside the head during which prolonged exposure to light and oxygen causes the degradation of its THC into CBN. This stage also signals an important transformation of the plant’s terpenes, as the intensity of their aroma begins to dissipate once the plant passes its peak in the cycle.