The Science Behind The Color Of Cannabis Bud


Can you tell what’s in your weed just by looking at it? Sure, sometimes you can tell what the variety is, say Sativa or Indica, but it is not always straight forward figuring out the potency from the color of the bud.

“The most solid visual for potency of bud is an abundance of crystals. Very dark bud is quite often very potent as well. Other visual indicators, colors are more challenging to figure.” Budsman#3

It’s somewhat like judging a book by its cover; appearance may mean something,then again, it may mean nothing. In the case of marijuana there are some things you can take away from the appearance, if it sparkles, then that surely means it is either doped with glass (this happen can happen with street weed) or it contains crystals packed with cannabinoids. In other words, crystals = potent, more crystals more potent. Mega bright colors usually mean something good is going on. Moldy weed, which should never be smoked, looks and smells moldy. Before the advent of commercial cannabinoid testing (1990’s), people had to rely mostly on their senses. How did it smell and taste? Nice bud trims and aromas are attractive, but it is the wild colors that really create a lusty impression and blows people away.

Is there any difference between Red Green, Purple- Purple, Red & Green?

Often strains, change color as they flower due to the action of enzymes that produce new molecules. White light is composed of every color in the rainbow. Different molecules absorb certain colors and reflect others. It is the reflected color that the eye sees. Most purified cannabinoids do not have any color at all, but some of the other things in the bud go hand in hand with THC, CBD and other cannabinoids.

Blueberries, grapes and cannabis can contain Anthocyanins, a group of more than 400, water-soluble blue-purple pigmented molecules. Flavonoids are yellow and have an extremely bitter taste. These ingredients are very desirable in nutritional edibles and beverages.

Cannabis THC and CBD rich flowers don’t change color until they are in the fall of their life cycle. Think of the tree leaves in fall. Like leaves on a tree, colors change from green to red,through orange to yellow. Once the green fades, the enzymes kick in and the buds blossom colorfully.

There are three popular marijuana species in common use for recreational and medical purposes. Other varieties are used for agricultural and industrial purposes. Sativa is tall and thin, while Indica is short and fat, and the mystical ruderalis is rather scrawny. As accurate DNA test information comes in, we are learning a lot more about the genetics.

Marijuana Scientists now have the ability to look at the genetics of cannabis strains and determine with incredible precision, ancestral information. DNA is used to code proteins which form and build cells and ultimately the entire organism. Chromosomes are a long chaning of DNA containing many genes which code specific proteins that instruct the organism to grow. In humans, there are 23 pairs of chromosomes while the Sativa species has 9 pairs. Each chromosome contains thousands of genes. Genes themselves can contain a million base pairs. A gene test is far superior to what comes out of the grape vine. In marijuana, the genes turning on and off code the production of proteins and enzymes that instruct the plant to make various portions of terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, etc.

Indica or Sativa?

Sativa bud is generally more leafy/fluffy, light green while Indica tends to be dense/solid dark green, still it can be hard to tell with some varieties. You have to smoke it and feel what kind of high you’re experiencing. If your body is relaxed and you’re zoned out, it’s most likely an indica, or an indica dominant strain. If you have a head rush and you’re completely mindfucked, it’s a sativa.

Climate and Temperature –  A Major Factor In Color

Lack of light will produce a sickly looking plant and bud. Chlorophyll is a plant pigment that sustains life pretty much for the entire food chain for plants and animals. Strangely, the color green is toxic to plants and interferes with photosynthesis, the making of sugar from thin and water. Plants absorb every color and reflect green, which obviously accounts for its color. At the end of its life, as the plant prepares to bear seeds, toxic green light is allowed to penetrate the plant, at which time the genes switch on to code enzymes to produce chemicals that turns the foliage to yellow.

Green light, however can be very useful to stimulate plants to grow denser and hardier in the early stages of growth. Later in the cycle, green light can be used to accelerate maturation. If you want to try this, we suggest you research further into this very interesting field. Lower temperature inhibits chlorophyll production. Temperature and lessening the light tells plants that a change of season is coming, summer to fall. The plant detects these changes and tells itself to get busy maturing buds and making seeds before it’s too late.

Certain strains have so much that you don’t even need to drop temperatures to see the change, as the plant naturally starts to lose chlorophyll at the end of its life. Purple Orangutan has some of the strongest blue and purple hues in the world. Purple hues come to the fore in more neutral pH environments. Blues also enjoy higher pH levels than most cannabis strains.

What Does Color Of The Bud Mean?

Red and pink

Red hairs are common, but red buds are rare actually. Pink Flower Shaman, a potent energising strain carries dominant red tones. Predator Pink on the other hand is pink in appearance and is smooth and relaxing. Starving plants of phosphorus can cause leaves and bud to redden too.

“Red hairs indicate that a plant has not been pollinated. Therefore, the plant has more potential for psychoactivity. Red hairs don’t always mean that a particular bud is potent.

Yellow and orange

Natural pigments Carotenoids give plants, vegetables and cannabis their distinctive hues of yellow, gold, and orange. Growing in alkaline conditions 5.0 or less will increase the concentration of carotenoids. Near the end of the growth cycle, these molecules dominate as chlorophyll disintegrates.

Black and dark

An abundance of anthocyanins (same pigment found in blueberries) accounts in part for the dark color of the bud. Very dark usually means very potent. Super dark red, green, and purple hues are said to come from Vietnamese landraces such as Vietnamese Black. UV light from the sun or LED lighting is known to increase the production of anthocyanins.

Red, green and purple mixtures

While dark varieties are usually potent, bold colors don’t necessarily correlate. However, bright colors mean the plant is rich in pigments, like anthocyanins and carotenoids which have antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. Research indicates that some anthocyanins have an affinity for CB1 or CB2 receptors, as do the Cannabinoids THC and CBD; and contribute to the entourage effect. This means that the color of the bud could play a role in selection when a patient finds that a certain color relates to a preferred medicinal effect.