Milky White vs. Amber Trichomes: When to Harvest for The High You Want in South Africa

Cannabis has so many properties, from the de-stressing and calming CBD to the narcotic, mind and body high that THC has blessed upon us. Trichomes are an essential part of bringing these elements to life.


When you harvest your bud, the colour of the trichomes will determine the stage of the cannabinoid lifecycle and what effects it will give you when used. Some trichomes give us an up-in-the-clouds feeling while others make us giggle until our stomachs cramp. Keep reading this guide on trichomes and when to harvest your cannabis to reap the rewards you’re looking for.

What are trichomes?

When it comes to cannabis, we are naturally intrigued. You’ve more than likely seen cannabis for yourself or are planning to grow cannabis at home. But if you look really closely, you’ll see tiny crystals and hairy structures that vary from an opaque white to a rusty amber, orange colour. These hairs are marijuana trichomes.


A trichome can be defined as a small, hair-like outgrowth on a plant that stems from the epidermis. Trichomes are very sticky and are responsible for that bud-tastic aroma that is commonly associated with cannabis.


While these trichomes look hairy and might make you think the dagga plant needs a shave. The cannabis trichomes are actually home to the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that make the plant strain so unique, potent and effective. However, the original purpose of the Trichomes isn’t actually its ability to create CBD and THC but rather used as a defence mechanism.


The Trichomes on the bud protect the female plant by dissuading predators, like birds and small animals. They do this by being very bitter and letting off a strong aroma.


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Types of Trichomes:


Bulbous trichomes – These are the smallest of the trichomes, weighing in at a tiny 15 micrometres (that’s 0,015 mm) These can’t be seen and only make up a couple of cells as they are so small.


Capitate sessile trichomes – These trichomes are larger, have more presence than the previous and are made up of a head and stalk.


Capitate-stalked trichomes – These trichomes are the largest of the three and can be seen by the naked eye. Hence, the trichomes you can see on your bud are more than likely Capitate-stalked trichomes. They are also responsible for the majority of the oils and cannabinoids produced around the flower.


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Trichomes Chart


This Trichome chart will help you decide when to harvest your marijuana plant based on the colour of the trichomes and what you want out of your bud. This chart indicates the trichome development timeline.


When trichomes first develop they are clear. The more potent they become, the milkier they get. From there they start turning amber and the results of your bud start to shift. When analysing your bud at home, you’ll need a 40, 50 or 60x microscope to see the trichomes up close.


Clear trichome – This indicates a zero or low potency. Harvesting during this phase will result in a decreased yield of cannabinoids and effectively, you won’t get as high as you would have if you just waited longer.


Milky Trichomes – Harvesting when there are mainly cloudy, milky or opaque trichomes will result in an uplifting, rushy and high-energy kind of high.


Amber Trichomes – Orange or amber trichomes, when harvested, will produce a more couchlock, chilled and narcotic high when used.


You’ve waited too long – be careful not to keep the flower on for too long, otherwise, the cannabis head will pop straight off the plant and you won’t get the benefits you’ve worked so hard for.


Best of both – Harvesting between the milky and amber trichome development stage, or when there are 50% amber and 50% milky trichomes. It will provide a mind-blowing and body relaxing high, also referred to as a mind and body high.


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Trichomes: When to Harvest

Trichomes harvest is very opinion-based. Some people believe the best time to harvest is when the milky trichomes just start to turn amber (5% amber, 95% milky), while others will tell you to wait until there are more amber than milky trichomes (60% amber, 40% milky). However, when to harvest trichomes is entirely up to you and what you want out of your harvest.


The basic rule of thumb is that the milkier the trichomes, the more sativa type high you will experience and the more amber, the more of an indica high you will feel. The trichome stage ultimately tells us how much and what terpenes and cannabinoids are being produced.


It is important to remember that the genetics of the plant and environmental factors during growth will impact the amount to terpenes and cannabinoids produced. As well as no two plants being identical, growing identically and producing the same amount of cannabinoids and terpenes.


If you’ve harvested a 50/50 ratio on a plant, the results still may vary on another plant. Therefore more trichomes there are doesn’t mean more terpenes and cannabinoids or a better high. One of the common misconceptions about weed. Milky trichomes vs amber will rather determine the type of high.


Once harvested, the trichomes are very volatile and can lose their magic very easily. Physical contact, heat, light, oxygen and extended periods of time can all play a role in the degradation of the trichomes.


These risks can be reduced by carefully handling cannabis flowers and limiting touching. Ensuring a smooth and effective cutting, drying and curing process will also help the trichomes keep longer.


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Final Thoughts on Milky Vs Amber Trichomes:


It’s important to know what you’re after when it comes to harvesting your own weed. Once you know what you want, the colour of the trichomes can be used as an indication of how close you are to that point.


If you’re one that enjoys the calming feeling weed gives you and your best friend is the couch, then harvest when amber. But if you’re that person that likes to exercise while you’re high or have the ultimate laugh sesh with your best bud, then get the trichomes while they are still fresh and milky.

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