One of the best aspects of trying a new strain of weed is getting to enjoy its unique variety of colors, aromas, and flavors. In addition to their euphoric effects, cannabis flowers are teeming with visual appeal. So why do some cannabis plants come in different colors, and do these colors mean anything? In this post, we’ll explore the many colors of weed and where they come from.
Why does weed come in different colors?
The various colors that can be found in weed are largely due to the presence of plant pigments such as chlorophyll, anthocyanins, and carotenoids. Chlorophyll is the dominant plant pigment, which is why cannabis appears mostly green. In the flowering stage, when the plant becomes biologically mature, chlorophyll production slows down, which can allow other colors to develop visually.
Different conditions can impact the prevalence of chlorophyll and other plant pigments, resulting in the presence of colors like purple, orange, red, and even pink or blue. For example, exposure to cold temperatures inhibits chlorophyll, which allows secondary plant pigments like anthocyanins and carotenoids to show through. This is the same process that occurs when tree leaves change color in the fall.
Sometimes a change in pH or soil nutrients can result in an interesting expression of color. Low phosphorus can result in reddish weed while low nitrogen can cause yellowing in the plant’s leaves. It’s important to note that these can be signs of nutrient deficiency in your plants and are not recommended methods of manipulating cannabis colors.
Some of the colorful hues in many weed strains can also be attributed to the hairlike female reproductive parts of cannabis plants, known as pistils. As the pistils mature, they can darken from a cream or white color to shades of amber, orange, and red, which add color and visual interest to your buds. Trichomes also add to the overall color scheme and can range in shades from white to amber to red.
Does the color of weed impact the potency?
Potency of cannabis is due almost entirely to the concentration of THC in the trichomes of the bud and how much you consume. While the many colors of weed are aesthetically pleasing, there’s no conclusive evidence to support that the purple, blue, red, orange and yellow hues impact the potency of your weed.
One exception to this is the color white, which is usually due to a high volume of trichomes, and can mean your weed is highly potent. Look out for weed that is all brown, as it is likely improperly dried or oxidized, which could mean a lower potency and unpleasant taste.
Common weed colors and where they come from
Let’s take a deeper look at the many colors of weed and what they mean.
Cannabis comes predominantly in a range of lime green to dark forest green. This is due to the presence of a group of plant pigments known as chlorophylls. Chlorophyll represents approximately 70% of the pigments in plants, and is responsible for absorbing sunlight to fuel photosynthesis.
Chlorophyll is typically dominant enough to mask the other plant pigments throughout the early growth period, but during the later stages of growth(usually fall, if growing outdoors) lower temperatures slow down chlorophyll production and the presence of other pigments(if any) becomes visible. Some of the most popular bright green strains include Green Crack, Green Goblin, and Green Haze.
Shades of purple in cannabis plants usually indicate the presence of anthocyanins. More likely to be found in the late stage of cannabis growth, this plant pigment is a type of flavonoid. Plants like blueberries, açaí, eggplant and purple cabbage are high in anthocyanins, which are hailed for their antioxidant properties when consumed. It’s important to note, however, that more research is needed to verify how efficiently the human body can absorb anthocyanins to take advantage of these antioxidants.
When chlorophyll production slows, anthocyanins begin to show through and can lead to the brilliant flecks of purple found in strains like Granddaddy Purple, Purple Urkel, and Purple Haze. When anthocyanins are expressed in shades of blue, you end up with the unique appearance found in well-loved strains such as Blueberry, Blue Dream, and Blue Cheese. Vietnamese Black is a strain that has such a high volume of anthocyanins that it can actually appear to be black.
Rare Reds and Pinks
Anthocyanins are also responsible for the red color in wine, apples, cherries, and even roses. Some reddish and pinkish hues in cannabis can also be attributed to the presence of anthocyanins, especially in Red Poison, Pink Panther, and Red Dragon.
Carotenoids are responsible for many of the orange, yellow, and red hues you see during fall. Of the more than 750 varieties, some of the more well-known carotenoids in plants include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. When some carotenoids(like the beta-carotene found in carrots) are ingested, they are converted into vitamin A, which plays a role in human growth and vision.
While chlorophyll is usually found at a high enough concentration to mask the expression of carotenoids in cannabis plants, these bright red, orange and yellow colors have their time to shine at cooler temperatures when chlorophyll begins to recede. Strains that have these characteristic fall colors include Orange Bud, Grapefruit and Lemon Kush.
The colors and names of many white strains are typically due to a thick coating of powder-like white trichomes, the resin glands that lend their potency to cannabis. For this reason, you can expect strains like White Rhino and White Widow to pack a powerful punch.
It’s important to ensure that the white you see on your bud is from trichomes and not other sources. Mold can also appear as white or grey masses on your buds, and tiny webs from spider mites can make buds look white as well. Always inspect your bud for mold or pests before purchasing.
The color of weed can also be an indicator of freshness. Brightly-colored buds can indicate that your weed is fresh and properly-cured. Weed that looks dull and brown may have been exposed to too much air or sunlight during curing and improper storage. Lower-quality cannabis, such as mids or brick weed can often appear brown in color.
While there’s no indication that the unique hues of purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow contribute to overall potency or medical benefit, strains like Granddaddy Purple and Red Dragon tend to excite our imaginations and add a healthy serving of visual interest compared to your garden variety green strains of weed.