For example, if you have grown tomato plants, you are likely familiar with the little hairs located along the stems, leaves, and roots during growth. Those are its non-glandular trichomes, and their duty is to defend the plant from insects and adverse weather conditions.
Like a tomato plant, the trichomes’ job in hemp is to protect the flower at all costs. To do this, it will naturally protect it from damaging winds and fungal growth and will deter animals with its powerful aroma and bitter taste.
The Purpose of Glandular Trichomes
Instead of defending, glandular trichomes in hemp have an even bigger job—they are responsible for the biosynthesis of cannabinoids. This is where cannabinoids and terpenes are made.
Often, trichomes will be referred to as the “factories” of the hemp plant because the more trichomes in a plant, the more cannabinoids will be produced. Many growers focus on cultivating plants with higher trichome levels, as they will provide a higher yield.
Glandular trichomes come in many shapes and sizes, and the most common types are separated into three categories:
- Bulbous trichomes
- Capitate-sessile trichomes
- Capitate-stalked trichomes
Bulbous trichomes are the smallest of the category. In fact, they are so tiny, the only way to view them is through a microscope. While there is a lack of research on its role in cannabinoid production, there are theories that it contributes to CBGA production.
Although this type is not as impactful as other trichomes, it is present throughout the entire plant to protect it from UV rays and other weather conditions.
In comparison to bulbous trichomes, capitate-sessile trichomes are slightly larger and are more abundant. Still, they are typically only visible with the help of a microscope.
This trichrome is described as a mushroom-shaped structure containing cannabinoids and terpenes, which can be primarily found on the head of the plant and sometimes seen on the leaves and stems.
Out of all glandular trichomes, this trichome is the most efficient in cannabinoid and terpene producers. Captivate-stalked trichomes are much larger, allowing them to be seen by the naked eye without the aid of a microscope. Because it is significantly different in size, it consequently is best for harvesting resin.
The Life Cycle of Trichome Production
In a perfect world, cannabinoid synthesis would happen overnight, but like any other plant, it takes time for the trichomes to form.
Trichomes don’t appear until the flowering stage. During this, trichomes will start to form along the outer surface of the plant, where they will take raw cellular elements called plastids and vacuoles from their stalk into the gland head. From here, the cells will begin to process and convert it into cannabigerol acid (CBGA) and other nutrient-rich compounds. Eventually, the glandular head will be full of cannabinoids and terpene-rich resins that can be collected once the plant has reached maturity.