According to a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, the number of trichomes is a major factor that determines the potency and fragrance of cannabis. The study, called “The frostier the flower, the more potent the cannabis,” was published on Oct. 28 in the The Plant Journal.
While THC and CBD can be found in multiple parts of the cannabis plant, researchers found that “the largest, mushroom-shaped stalked glandular trichomes are the richest source of THC- and CBD-forming metabolites and fragrance-giving terpenes.”
Investigators admitted that research on the cannabis plant is limited. “Despite its high economic value, our understanding of the biology of the cannabis plant is still in its infancy due to restricted legal access,” said co-lead author Teagen Quilichini, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC botany and Anandia Laboratories Inc. “Trichomes are the biochemical factories of the cannabis plant and this study is the foundation for understanding how they make and store their valuable products.” Anandia Laboratories offers cannabinoid testing for licensed producers in Canada.
Thanks to new developments in modern microscopy, researchers can take a much better look at cannabinoid production inside of trichomes and other areas of the plant. Researchers discovered that under ultraviolet light, stalked trichomes emit a bright blue color and contained a specific pie-shaped disc of plant cells. The smaller sessile trichomes, without stalks, emitted a red color, and had smaller secretory discs that emit fewer fragrant terpenes.
“We saw that stalked glandular trichomes have expanded ‘cellular factories’ to make more cannabinoids and fragrant terpenes,” said co-lead author Sam Livingston, a PhD candidate at UBC botany. “We also found that they grow from sessile-like precursors and undergo a dramatic shift during development that can be visualized using new microscopy tools.”
The study confirms what many cultivators already know—that trichomes contain the majority of THC and CBD. Next, investigators plan to determine how trichomes export and store CBD metabolites