How Does Cannabis Get Its Color?

cannabis colors

In the culinary world, they say we eat with our eyes first. We make a snap judgment on the quality of food based on its colors, textures, and overall presentation on the plate when really, visuals have no real connection to flavor. It’s all in our minds that we make that assumption: something that looks good, has to taste good as well. The same could not be more true than with cannabis and its colors. How does cannabis get its colors, anyway?

The Connection Between Cannabis & Fruit

We often forget that the cannabis within our pipes, bowls, and blunts came from a living, breathing plant similar to fruit. The vibrant colors you see in the produce section of your grocery store are all-natural, one of the reasons we’re so attracted to fruit in the first place. We eat with our eyes. We walk past a green and pink watermelon, a fire-truck red pepper, a purple plum, a highlighter yellow lemon…it all looks so tasty. Well, cannabis gets its colors in a similar manner, and it all has to do with anthocyanins.

What Are Anthocyanins?

A blueberry gets its blue hue from anthocyanins, which are essential building blocks of color that appear naturally in fruits and cannabis strains. Anthocyanins belong to a family of flavonoids. This is what makes purple taste like grape, red taste like strawberry, and green taste like lime. Flavonoids are mostly responsible for producing red, blue, and purple colors in fruits and cannabis strains.

Keep in mind that some strains produce more flavonoids than others, it’s not a “copy and paste” situation even within the same indica or sativa family. Two batches of Granddaddy Purple will have purple coloring but with variations in intensity and deepness. No two batches ever look completely the same, kind of like snowflakes and fingerprints. Similar but not the same.

Different Types Of Colors

As mentioned earlier, flavonoids account for most of the red, purple, and blue colors you see on cannabis strains. But what about those orange and yellow hairs? What about all the other colors on the cannabis spectrum? In the final stages of flowering, some cannabis strains produce molecules called carotenoids instead of flavonoids. Carotenoids are responsible for the production of warmer colors, like yellow, golden, and orange.

Why Does Cannabis Change Color?

Back in elementary or middle school, we learned that plants get their green coloring from chlorophyll—a vital aspect in photosynthesis. As plants mature, and this counts for cannabis plants as well, they gradually produce less chlorophyll. This allows for other color chemical compounds (carotenoids and flavonoids) to take over and become more pronounced. Thus, you might notice your cannabis plants change from bright green to deep purple over time.

Additionally, environmental factors such as…

  • light
  • pH levels
  • temperature
  • and humidity 

…play a role in the changing of colors. As the temperature drops, cannabis plants are more likely to produce higher levels of flavonoids to come out purple or blue. The time of your harvest, whether in the summer or fall, directly impacts the colors of your buds.

Are Some Colors More Potent Than Others?

Our minds might trick us into thinking that a purple strain is more potent than a yellow one, but in actuality, color has little to do with potency, effectiveness, and psychoactive behavior. Don’t be fooled into buying more for a strain simply because it has a more impressive color scheme.

Similar to Jelly Belly candies and Gushers, you might have a color and flavor preference. I’ve always gravitated toward purple and red candies as I enjoy grape and strawberry flavors more than lemon and lime (yellow and red). This explains why some people prefer sativa strains, which often smell of diesel, earthiness, and lemon, over indica strains, that smell sweeter like grape and berries.

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