🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur.
Colas are the flowering regions of a cannabis plant, the parts that are harvested for smoking or processing for concentrates. These budding sites are where the most densely-packed plant matter grows, and also where all the magic happens. Cannabis colas are not your average flower. While they might appear to be relatively basic structures, colas are actually composed of several different parts. Look closely and they are anything but boring. And the more you look, the more you will see.
The cannabis plant goes through various stages of growth, from seedling all the way through peak maturity. During the vegetative phase, the plant is stacking on size and growing lots of leaves and branches. But once the plant begins the flowering stage, the first bud sites appear. Over the next several weeks, these buds grow in size and increase in density, until chunky colas are bursting from the branches.
Once these colas, and the resin they produce, reach peak ripeness the plant is ready to harvest.
Why Are Colas Important?
Colas are important because they contain the highest concentration of trichomes, which are the tiny globe-headed appendages packed with resin. This resin holds the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, the main compounds which provide therapeutic value that cannabis is known for. The goal for solventless extractors is to isolate and concentrate these compounds, which is achieved primarily through Ice Water Extraction and pressing rosin.
It’s all about the resin. And since colas produce most of the trichomes that hold this resin, growers and solventless extractors alike hold premium colas in high regard.
What Are the Specific Parts of the Cannabis Cola Anatomy?
Let’s take a look at the main parts of the cannabis cola anatomy.
Pistils are the reproductive organs of the female cannabis plant which are composed of three parts: the stigma, the bract, and the ovule. Although many growers refer to pistils as the “hairs” on cannabis flowers, these hairs are actually the stigmas.
Together, the stigma, the bract, and the ovule make up what’s referred to as the pistillate flower. A bud refers to a cluster of pistillate flowers.
Stigmas are the hair-like outgrowths that sprout from pistils. Stigmas capture pollen from male cannabis plants, and pass that pollen down the length of the structure and into the pistillate flower. Stigmas are white when they are immature, and turn a burnt orange color as the flower matures. Although the color change in stigmas represents a maturing cannabis cola, this is not a reliable signal as to when the plant is actually ready to harvest.
Learn about when to harvest in our article How To Harvest Cannabis for Peak Trichome Ripeness.
Bracts look like little cannabis seed pods, because they cover the seeds within pollinated colas. Bracts are actually small leaves, appearing tear-shaped as they surround the pistil and stigma. Stigmas burst out from the tops of the bracts. Bracts are covered in trichomes, just like the buds and sugar leaves which grow out from the colas.
The calyx is the very first signal a grower gets that a female cannabis plant is starting to flower. The calyx, located at the base of the flower, first appears as several tiny leaves. Both the pistil and stigma are contained within the calyx.
The calyx develops in order to serve as a protective layer for the flower, allowing budding flower petals to form safely inside. As the flowers begin to mature, the calyx eventually opens up to reveal the pistils.
The calyx is especially important because it holds both the plant’s reproductive organs and trichomes, the keepers of the resin.
Trichomes are the holy grails of the cannabis plant. They look like mini mushrooms with bulbous heads, and create a shiny, sparkling look on the cannabis colas. These resin-producing glands contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in highly concentrated amounts. Growers think about cultivating cannabis in terms of flower production, but another way to think about it is through the lens of farming trichomes. At the end of the day, it’s the trichomes we’re after.
Trichomes are the factories inside which the best therapeutic compounds in cannabis are produced. What’s more, these trichomes can actually be isolated and collected using solventless techniques in order to create pure and highly potent cannabis concentrates. Thanks to techniques like ice water extraction and pressing rosin, we can separate trichome heads from the rest of the plant material, which equates to getting the best and leaving behind the rest.
Although there are smaller amounts of THC and other cannabinoids in all parts of the cannabis plant, the concentration is highest within trichomes.
Learn more about trichomes and their importance in Guide To Trichomes and Solventless Extraction.
What Are the Qualities of an Ideal Cola for Solventless Extraction?
Genetics largely impact the way that cannabis colas grow and the qualities that they embody. In order to grow the best resin for solventless extraction, it’s essential to select the right cannabis cultivars for your garden.
Cannabis colas that are most desirable for smoking usually aren't the most desirable for solventless extraction.
Good colas for smoking are chunky, dense, and have great bag appeal. Good colas for solventless extraction are fluffy, airy, and may or may not have the best bag appeal. For solventless extraction, it’s about the quality and quantity of the trichomes themselves, not the look and structure of the cola.
Colas that are best for solventless extraction generally have copious trichome production, trichomes with clear abscission points, stable trichome heads that won't easily break open, fluffy and airy buds, and pump out high potency, terp-rich resin.
Learn more in our article How To Identify Cannabis Strains for Solventless Bubble Hash Production.
How To Grow Cannabis Colas for Resin Production
Growers don’t have to rely on genetics alone to determine whether or not cannabis colas will be ideal for solventless extraction. After a grower selects the best cultivars for solventless production, there are certain techniques they can employ to ensure the resin quality is as good as it can get for ice water extraction and pressing rosin.
Massive, dense buds are not the main goal for growers who cultivate cannabis specifically for the resin. Don’t worry about the weight of your colas for solventless extraction, just think about the trichomes and the resin inside.
Intensity of light, exposure to wind, canopy surface area, bud site spacing, and nutrient selection all contribute to resin quality.
Read more in our articles:
The journey from seedling to harvest is a magical process that culminates in the prized colas—the flowering crown jewels of the cannabis plant. These colas reveal a complex interplay of specialized parts, including pistils, stigmas, bracts, calyxes, and trichomes, which all work in harmony to produce the coveted resin.
The significance of these colas lies in their ability to yield the vital trichomes packed with resin, the essence of the cannabis plant that is carefully harvested and processed to create highly potent solventless concentrates.
Understanding the nuances of cultivating these resin-rich colas involves a blend of genetics, cultivation techniques, and a laser focus on trichome quality. The true essence of the cannabis plant reveals itself not just in the lush, dense colas sought for smoking but in the ethereal, trichome-rich buds that hold the key to the finest solventless extracts.
It’s all about the resin.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are cannabis colas, and why are they important?
Cannabis colas are the flowering sites of the plant, housing the densest concentration of trichomes, which contain the sought-after cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. These compounds are responsible for the therapeutic value of cannabis. Colas play a pivotal role for both growers and extractors due to their rich resin content, making them highly valuable for producing potent concentrates.
What parts comprise the anatomy of a cannabis cola?
The anatomy of a cannabis cola involves several key parts: pistils (comprising the stigma, bract, and ovule), stigmas (the hair-like structures on the flowers), bracts (small leaves covering the seeds within pollinated colas), calyx (the protective layer housing reproductive organs and trichomes), and trichomes (the resin-producing glands containing cannabinoids). Each part contributes to the development and potency of the cola.
How do trichomes impact the quality of cannabis colas for extraction?
Trichomes are crucial as they house the highest concentration of cannabinoids and are the primary focus for solventless extraction techniques like Ice Water Extraction and rosin pressing. The quality of trichomes within a cola—measured by clarity, stability, and potency—determines its suitability for extraction, rather than the visual appeal of the cola itself.
What distinguishes cannabis colas suitable for smoking from those ideal for solventless extraction?
Colas sought for smoking are dense, visually appealing, and have bag appeal, while those suitable for solventless extraction are airy, fluffy, and prioritize trichome density and potency over appearance. Growers need to consider the genetics and qualities specific to resin production for extraction purposes.
How can growers optimize their cultivation for the best resin production in cannabis colas?Beyond genetic selection, growers can influence resin quality through environmental factors like light intensity, wind exposure, nutrient selection, and canopy management. To foster the production of premium trichomes, it's crucial to prioritize trichome development over the sheer size or weight of the colas, focusing on potency and quality.