Long before cannabinoid testing began, customers made their choices mostly based on smell and color. After that, taste and of course potency. Even today, with all the knowledge we have available when making our weed purchases, there is nothing more appealing than a jar of colorful buds.
So where do those amazing bud colors come from? In a word, anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins belong to a parent class of molecules called flavonoids and are synthesized via the phenylpropanoid pathway. They occur in all tissues of higher plants, including leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruits. They are odorless and moderately astringent, and can appear red, blue or purple according to their pH.
Think of tree leaves in fall. As the temperature drops, they change from green to red, orange, yellow or gold. The same is true for cannabis: once the green fades, the colors appear.
Temperature plays a vital role too. Chlorophyll is the plant component vital to photosynthesis and cooler temperatures inhibit chlorophyll production. For cannabis, depending on the lineage of the strain, certain colors can appear when you drop the temperature and the light cycle shortens, simulating a change in season.
The ideal range to grow cannabis is a pH of 5.5-6.5, however, during flowering, you can lean one way or another to enhance or minimize certain anthocyanins to bring out certain colors. Additionally, different strains of cannabis come with different cannabinoid ratios, flavor profiles and anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins can be present in plant tissues, leaves and flowers. Sometimes, they even present in the trichomes themselves, which are the hairs or fine outgrowths or appendages on plants. They also can attract pollinating creatures like butterflies and bees, while deterring pests.
A common misconception is that strains with bold color are more potent. The truth is that color has nothing to do with potency.
In fact, buds that have been grown and harvested to their maximum potential can be so covered with trichomes that they almost appear white. Trichomes are packed with cannabinoids and terpenes so these flowers can be quite potent. White Widow or White Rhino are two strains with a propensity to become encrusted with trichomes.
However, anthocyanins are known to act as powerful antioxidants and are also thought to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. So while the presence of anthocyanins doesn’t change the potency of cannabinoids like THC levels, it might give the strain an added entourage effect on health.
Other plants high in these molecules include blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, blood oranges, and cranberries. Cranberries especially are touted for their powerful antioxidant properties, due to anthocyanins.
Strong and vibrant color also indicates that your cannabis is at its peak freshness, taste, and potency. If you are consuming your colorful bud orally in tinctures, oils, edibles, or capsules, you are also getting the nutritional benefits of carotenoids, anthocyanins and other flavonoids. But what about the actual color? Do different colors provide different effects? Your cannabis can come in a rainbow of colors, and yes, different shades can determine varied effects, taste, and even smell.
ROYGBIV – Taste the Rainbow
Red: Red hairs show up more frequently, but red buds and leaves are not nearly as common. Red marijuana is a genetically selected plant and is created by combining three kinds of cannabis – ruderalis, indica and sativa. It’s an extremely rare plant. The “Red” is best known for its hybrid effects, which simultaneously offer great relief to the body and the mind and is known for its intoxicating aroma.
There are also some lovely shades of pink, such as Predator Pink or Pink Kush, with actual pink and fuchsia hues. These are Indica-dominant hybrids, with powerful body-focused effects known to eliminate pain, insomnia, and appetite loss.
Orange: Carotenoids give cannabis those citrusy hues of yellow, gold, and orange. To get these colors, more alkaline conditions are required. If these colors are predominant in the plant, they will come out naturally as the flowering phase comes to an end.
Orange will mostly affect the hairs and buds, such as Agent Orange, Orange Crush, or Tangerine Dream. These strains are known for their aromas of fresh-cut citrus and are excellent mood enhancers.
Yellow: Carotenoids produce the warm hues found in many plants including carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and tomatoes. Beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are among the more than 750 carotenoids have been identified and can be converted by the body into Vitamin A. Many flavonoids are also yellow and can influence the colors of cannabis.
Yellow strains include Lemon Haze, Golden Lemon, and Strawberry Banana. Known for their sweet and citrusy scents and high-THC content, they are said to produce happy, invigorating effects that sharpen creativity and sensory awareness.
Green: Green is the predominant color of most flowering plants, including cannabis, due to the presence of chlorophyll. Often plant tissues will have so much chlorophyll that its green color masks the presence of other pigments.
Cannabis strains that retain green as the dominant bud color include Green Crack and Green Goblin. With a tangy, fruity flavor redolent of mango, Green Crack is a great daytime strain known to fight fatigue, stress and depression.
Blue: Cannabis flowers with shades of blue are high in anthocyanins and are by far some of the most beautiful. Likewise, fruits and vegetables high in anthocyanins include blueberries, açai, raspberries, blackberries, and purple cabbage. Blue-hued cannabis can be achieved by picking a blue strain of cannabis seeds and letting it grow outdoors, naturally occurring as the temperature drops.
All blue cannabis descends from Dutch Passion’s Blueberry, developed in Amsterdam in the 1970s. Popular strains include Blue Haze, Blue Mystic and Blue Cheese. These predominant Indica strains are known for being heavy, often used for relaxation and for providing relief from muscle spasms, pain, or stress.
Indigo: There are some rare strains that are so dark they almost appear black. The origin of these genetics goes back to Vietnamese landraces, like Vietnamese Black. All other strains derived from hybrids, such as Black Willy and Black Tuna, share both the signature ebony buds and leaves.
In addition, black strains are noted for their intense psychedelic, cerebral highs. If you want visuals, this lineage is for you. The inky appearance comes from an overabundance of all colors in the leaves.
Violet: Purple strains of cannabis are probably the most popular, such as Granddaddy Purple, Purple Haze and Purple Urkle. Marijuana strains that appear purplish or blue as opposed to the traditional green cannabis, tend to be more fruity, due to the high number of anthocyanins.
Purple Orangutan (or Gorilla) has some of the strongest purple hues in the world. This mostly indica hybrid produces lush, chunky buds covered in trichomes and purple shades. Purple Gorilla flowers smell of fresh earth and an array of berries, with a taste reminiscent of grapes picked right from the vine.
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