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What Do The Colors of Marijuana Mean?

Cannabis isn’t limited to shades of green.

A.J. Herrington

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What Do The Colors of Marijuana Mean?
Jessy Libik/ Shutterstock

Part of the magic of marijuana is the infinite variety of traits that can be exhibited by one species of plant. Cannabis plants can be tall and lanky or short and bushy depending on their genetic heritage. Marijuana can express myriad flavors to tempt the tastebuds and aromas to excite the nose. Cannabis leaves and flowers can also vary in hue, offering a full palette of marijuana colors to please the eye.

Colorful Marijuana

As young plants grow, most strains of cannabis are primarily green. Many shades of green are represented—from light lime-colored hues to greens so dark they are tinged with purple. As plants flower and begin to reach maturity, more colors can appear or become more pronounced in both leaves and buds. Several different factors can influence marijuana colors, including temperature, nutrient levels, the acidity or alkalinity of the soil or other growing medium, and the quality of the light. All of these variables can impact the expression and ratio of natural pigments produced by the plant, creating the different colors of marijuana.

The Colors Of Marijuana

Greens

Green is the predominant color of most flowering plants including cannabis because of the presence of chlorophyll, the pigment that absorbs sunlight (except the green wavelengths) to power the process of photosynthesis. Through photosynthesis, plants combine carbon dioxide and water to create sugars that fuel all biological functions. Often, plant tissues will have so much chlorophyll that its green color masks the presence of other pigments. But as summer turns to autumn, lower temperatures inhibit chlorophyll production, allowing the other pigments to emerge and produce colorful marijuana. A similar phenomenon can be observed in deciduous trees as their leaves change color and fall.

Cannabis strains that retain green as the dominant bud color include Green Crack, Green Haze, and Green Goblin.

Blues, Purples, Reds, and Pinks

Cannabis flowers that are purplish to shades of blue are generally high in a group of chemicals known as anthocyanins. More than 500 anthocyanins have been identified, with colors that can range from red to purple to blue depending on pH. Anthocyanins can produce colorful marijuana although they are generally not abundant in young plants but are produced as plants mature. They belong to the class of substances known as flavonoids and have antioxidant properties. Fruits and vegetables high in anthocyanins include blueberries, açaí, raspberries, blackberries, eggplant, and purple cabbage.

Purple strains of cannabis are very popular, including Granddaddy Purple, Purple Haze and Purple Urkle. Some strains such as Black Diesel and Vietnamese Black can be so high in anthocyanins that they are nearly ebony. Marijuana strains with blue-tinged buds include Blueberry, Blue Dream, and Blue Cheese. Red and pink varieties are relatively rare and include Red Poison, Red Dragon, Pink Panther, and others. Reddish leaves or buds can also be caused by a deficiency of phosphorous, an element vital to plant physiology.

Oranges and Yellows

Carotenoids are another group of pigments that can influence the colors of marijuana. They are created by plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria. Beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are among the more than 750 carotenoids have been identified. Some carotenoids in the diet, including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin can be converted by the body into Vitamin A. Carotenoids are important for eye health and provide protection against blue light and macular degeneration. Carotenoids produce the yellow, orange, and red hues that are found in many plants including carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and tomatoes. Plants grown in alkaline soils with a pH of 5.0 or less can have a greater abundance of carotenoids.

Many flavonoids are also yellow and can influence the colors of marijuana. Nitrogen deficiencies during growth can also cause cannabis leaves and buds to appear yellowish.

Strains with orange or yellow flowers include Orange Bud, Lemon Kush, Grapefruit, Nectarine, and Olive Oyl. Many varieties of cannabis will have orange or red pistils, or hairs as they are commonly known.

White

Buds that have been grown and harvested to their maximum potential can be so covered with trichomes that they appear white or frosty. Trichomes are packed with cannabinoids and terpenes so these flowers can be quite potent. White Widow and White Rhino are two strains with a propensity to become encrusted with trichomes.

Marijuana Colors And Potency

Colorful marijuana can be attractive or even visually stunning, but other than white buds glistening with shiny trichomes, hue is usually not a reliable indicator of potency. But if you are consuming your bud orally in tinctures, oils, edibles, or capsules, you may be getting the nutritional benefits of carotenoids, anthocyanins, and other flavonoids. Anthocyanins have shown some activity at CB1 and CB2 receptor sites and may have a synergistic, or entourage, effect in conjunction with cannabinoids and terpenes.

But even if they don’t get you higher, different marijuana colors can add aesthetic appeal and a sense of adventure to your next bud purchase. Which color of the rainbow will you choose next?

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