The colors of cannabis
Before cannabis was legal “bag appeal” was the most important factor when it came to buying or selling weed. Just like with food, smell and looks are the first things we notice and the first things that form our opinion about it, so buds that had a pleasant and pungent smell and different or interesting looks were always in high demand.
The diversity of cannabis strains today is really wide and consumers can find strains that suit them in effects, grow characteristics, aromas and flavors. Visual differences and uniqueness have always captured the minds of cannabis connoisseurs and have made those strains equally popular among growers and users alike.
Usually, cannabis strains are different shades of green with orange, red or brown hairs or pistils but sometimes flowers take on hues of red, blue, purple or pink. A popular misconception about colored cannabis is that those strains are more potent than the ‘regular’ green but their color has nothing to do with their potency.
Cannabis plants have more than 400 different compounds, after cannabinoids and terpenes, flavonoids are one of the three most important. Unlike the name may suggest, flavonoids have nothing to do with the actual flavor but they do play a crucial role in color pigments.
Chlorophyll – a building block of our food chain
Chlorophyll, which is the main plant pigment, is responsible for sustaining life as we know it and plays a crucial role in the development of the entire food chain from plants to animals. Plants absorb every color of the spectrum except green which they reflect and which accounts for their color. Green color is toxic to plants though and interferes with photosynthesis, stopping the plants in making sugars and food from air, sun and water.
As plants approach the end of their lives, usually in the fall, they start to ensure that their progeny will live on. Days get shorter, light spectrum of the Sun changes and temperatures drop, which is a sign for plants that summer is over and that they should start making seeds. At the end of their lives, plants prepare to bear seeds and green light is allowed to penetrate the plant and genes switch on to code enzymes to produce compounds that turn the color of the leaves to yellow, which is known as the “Fall Effect”.
The plant’s vibrant green color is a sign of good health but as the temperatures drop, they inhibit chlorophyll production. However, plants have many other pigments, including anthocyanins and carotenoids, which are used, in the absence of chlorophyll, by the plant to absorb sunlight and photosynthesis.
Unlike chlorophyll, anthocyanins naturally absorb all light wavelengths, except those in the indigo spectrum which are responsible for the plant’s purple color. Anthocyanins are a flavonoid family you may find in plants such as grapes, eggplants, blueberries, violets or red cabbage and they’re responsible for producing red, purple or blue pigments.
According to a study by Mansouri and Bagheri, flavonoid accumulation is involved in various aspects of the plant’s growth, which includes pigment production, pathogen resistance and protection against UV radiation. Expressing other colors is also a survival mechanism for cannabis plants – it helps them attract pollinators like bees, repeal pests by making them think the plant is sick and to attract more warmth due to their darker color.
Different colors may appear on various parts of the plant – pistils, leaves, calyxes and trichomes. Pistils are usually white in color but they can change their color to purple or pink. Like we said before, the change in color is no indication of potency, they just make the plant more attractive. Calyxes are responsible for bud formation, hundreds of them pile on top of each other and form buds. By controlling light conditions and temperatures, they too can change color from the usual green. The more calyxes that form the bud are present, the more vibrant the bud’s color will be. Different colored leaves are also possible and they help the plant to absorb more heat and also, make it more attractive to pollinators and repel pests. Trichomes change color as the plants mature and they go from being transparent or opaque to white and then to golden amber. Some plants may have trichomes that instead of milky white, exhibit green, purple or pink colors.
Manipulating the environmental conditions
As we said before, lower fall temperatures inhibit chlorophyll production and enable the plants to use flavonoids for photosynthesis. In general, blue and purple hues react to slight drops in temperatures but be careful not to lower the temperatures too much as it may send the plants in shock. If the temperatures are slightly higher than the required levels, some strains may produce gold or red hues instead.
Not all strains will show off these colorful hues, but they have a higher potential of doing so. If you had to expose your plants to colder temperatures, it may result in plants producing less THC. Research on other fruits and flowers has shown that higher temperatures and higher pH levels destroy anthocyanin production, meaning they tend to thrive in more acidic environments.
PH levels are also an important factor when it comes to color pigments.The exact color plants will exhibit depends on the soil pH. Yellow color is developed in alkaline conditions, blue in higher pH, purple in neutral pH, while pink and red colors are best induced by acidic environment.
Different plant pigments are responsible for different colors:
- Anthocyanin – Blue/Purple
- Anthoxanthin – White/Cream
- Carotenoids – Yellow/Orange
- Chlorophyll – Green
- Lycopene – Red
UV light from the sun or LED lighting is also known to increase the production of anthocyanins. However, UV light can be damaging for the plants when given in high quantities, so if you’re planning on supplementing your light setup, make sure you know what you’re doing. Plants have multiple defense mechanisms that help them deal with predators, pests, disease or any other ‘threats’. When exposed to the damaging effects of the UV rays, plants produce their own ‘sunscreen’ as a response – various enzymes, antioxidants and other chemicals, including anthocyanins will repair the damage caused by the exposure and change the color as a ‘side-effect’.
Another factor that plays a significant role in the plant’s color is the photoperiod. By reducing the number of hours your plants are exposed to light, you could see the change in color as a result of decreasing the chlorophyll production. This process is more intense during the flowering phase, especially in the last 2 or 3 weeks, and is known as senescence
Some of the plant pigments, such as carotenoids and anthocyanins are also potentially beneficial for human consumption. It is noted that they may have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties.
Some studies also indicate that some anthocyanins have an affinity for CB1 or CB2 receptors, interacting with them as cannabinoids such as THC and CBD and contributing to the ‘entourage effect’ – the synergic relationship between cannabis compounds and the endocannabinoid system.
Some of the colored strains you can find on the Vault are:
Purple Queen from RQS is an Indica dominant hybrid, a cross between Hindu Kush and Purple Afghani. A combination of such great genetics resulted in a beautiful purple strain that’s resistant, fast finishing and super easy to grow even by inexperienced and beginner growers. Most plants will exhibit purple or lavender colors and hues. Effects are well balanced between cerebral and body buzz, euphoric, relaxed, calming and sleepy. Flavors are intense, citrusy and sweet with spicy undertones. Aromas are pungent, piney, kushy and woody with hints of lemon and fuel.
Purple Lemonade, available in feminized seeds form is a colorful Indica-dominant (70%) cannabis autoflower and Fast Buds’ most advanced purple genetics yet. It will finish flowering in 8-9 weeks with yields going up to 400-500g/m2, usually testing up to 22% THC. With its height at 70-110cm it’s a good choice for both indoors and outdoors, even balconies and sun-exposed terraces. Purple Lemonade’s effects are strong but well balanced, starting off as uplifting, giggly and social which turns into a deep full body relaxation. Its flavors and aromas are zestful, citrusy and sweet with piney, berry and herbal undertones.
Purple Auto was created by L’Hort Dels Somnis and Pyramid Seeds by crossing the feminized version of the Purple with a Ruderalis plant in order to ensure the autoflowering trait. This mysterious mixture of Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis will surely stand out because of its dark purple color. Finishing fast and remaining short and stocky makes it a great choice for balcony and terrace or gardens grows. Not a great yielder but Auto Purple compensates for that with its intense flavor and effects. Aromas of Auto Purple are primarily fruity and sweet, reminding of berries, grape juice or wine with the sweet smell of black liquorice. Effects are mildly cerebral with a relaxing physical aspect which makes it a great daily strain.
Purple Bud from White Label Seed Company is an Indica-dominant cannabis strain. This three-way cross between Afghani, Jamaican and (Hindu Kush x Purple Kush) finishes in 60-75 days. Usually testing at 15-20% THC, it’s a great strain to use throughout the day. Its effects are well balanced between cerebral, euphoric and relaxing, happy and sleepy. Aromas are sweet and spicy with peppery and piney undertones. The plant also exhibits wonderful purple colors.
Blackberry Auto from Fast Buds is a cross between Blackberry Kush with Pakistani heritage and Canadian Sativa Ruderalis. This Indica dominant autoflower will usually finish in up to 8 weeks from germination and will yield up to 600g/m2 or up to 300g per plant. Blackberry Auto, as its name suggests, has sweet, berry-like aromas that are combined with earthy undertones. Usually testing at ~20% THC with small amounts of CBD, this is a great night time strain
Have you ever grown or used different colored cannabis strains? Tell us what your favorite colored cannabis strains are.
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