For cannabis connoisseurs, the intoxicating effects of THC are only one aspect of the overall marijuana experience. Past the high, there’s the scent, the taste, the bud structure, and of course, the colors.
From vibrant green buds and strains that are undeniably “purp,” to flower varietals with bright red and orange hairs, cannabis cultivars can embody a whole medley of hues and pigments. So what gives weed its diverse array of visual tones, and what strains should you seek out when hoping for that perfect purple nug? We’ve got you covered.
How Does Weed Get Its Color?
Like most plants in nature, cannabis is packed full of chlorophyll, or a chemical compound that uses the sun to generate energy for plants. And so the same thing that makes your grassy lawn sparkle is also what turns your Sour Diesel green.
But what about strains that end up with purple, red, pink, or even black hues? For those, we need to dive even deeper into plant science. The colorful culprits are anthocyanins, a class of water-soluble pigments that provide the range of blues, reds, and purples to fruits and vegetables like berries, cabbage, and eggplants. In cannabis, different strains are more apt to produce anthocyanins than others, but it also depends on the plant’s environment and nutrients.
When cannabis plants reach the latter part of the flowering stage, they need less help from the sun. Subsequently, they slow down on chlorophyll production, and ramp up on anthocyanins as the temperature starts to drop. For cannabis cultivators, this means that typically purple, red, and pink strains will only start to show their true colors during harvest season, and even still might end up as green buds, depending on individual grow temperatures and trim jobs.
What Role Does Temperature Play in Cannabis Color?
Take a second to think of your favorite fall foliage. You probably conjured up an image of majestic trees with hundreds of golden, red, and orange leaves shaking in the wind, yeah? Well in the same way that maple and oak trees transition with the temperature drops of seasonal change, cannabis also produces more anthocyanins in the colder months.
For outdoor pot growers, that means that no matter the strain, the final color of your buds will rely at least somewhat on the weather conditions towards the end of growing season. For indoor cannabis cultivators, it could mean lowering temperatures in grow rooms during flowering in hopes of adding an extra spike of bright color.
What Do pH Levels Have to Do With Cannabis Colors?
In addition to genetics and temperature, at least some research indicates that cannabis color could also be influenced by the plant’s acidity levels. In recent studies of non-cannabis plants and vegetables reported by Leafly, scientists found that fauna with higher acidity levels often give off red and pink vibes, neutral plants give off more purples, high pH brings out blues, and alkaline-packed plants tend to turn out yellow.
What Strains Are the Most Colorful?
So, with all of that information about how cannabis gets its color, what strains should you look out for if you want to smoke the rainbow? Well, as we’ve shown, no strain is guaranteed to produce any one color in its buds, but here are a few of our favorite flower varietals with genetic dispositions prone to vibrant hues.
Grandaddy Purple — or GDP for short — has been a staple in California’s indica-heavy diet since the start of the new millenium. A cross between Purple Urkle and Big Bud, GDP is one of the weed world’s most notorious purp strains, with a heavy dose of berry flavor to match its typically dark purple coloring.
First introduced by cultivator Ken Estes in the San Francisco Bay Area, Grandaddy Purple has become the poster child for purple strains around the globe, with more name drops in rap songs than we can count.
Like most cannabis strains with a pop of color, Pink Panties has its expected hues right there in the name. A cross of multiple OG Kush varieties, and first released by Mr. Sherbinski, don’t let the close-to-vulgar name turn you off to this citrusy strain with light purple coloring that often borders on magenta.
And while Pink Panties will have a heavy couch-locked indica effect on its own, the strain has also been used to cross some of the most popular pot of the past few years — namely Sherbinski’s most famous strain, Sunset Sherbet, which gets its colorful name and looks from mixing GSC and Pink Panties.
A pure purple strain that can be traced back to both Canada and California in the pre-millenium cannabis era, The Black gets its heavy metal name from its dark coloring, with buds so densely purple that they’re often mistaken for black.
Of course, every batch of flower will come with its own unique scents, potency, and color. But if you’re looking for a purple strain to impress your smoking buddies nearly every time, pick up an eighth of The Black when you see it at your local dispensary.
Outside of colorful dense bud structures, weed also takes on bright appearances and names from its hairs, aka stigmas. For the sativa Orange Crush, vibrant orange hairs cover the bud so thoroughly that it will often block the naked eye from seeing the green beneath.
A new strain on the block, 4G is a genetic super-cross among some of the cannabis industry’s favorite heavy hitters. A threeway mix of GSC, Gelato, and GG#4 (hence the 4G name), this potent indica hybrid is new, exclusive, and downright gorgeous — with a mix of bright green and deep purple coloring to match its fragrant perfume scent.
Originally bred by Purple Caper Seeds, 4G is hard to find. But if you can get your hands on it, you’ll want to consider framing the bud instead of smoking it — this flower is pretty much picture perfect.
As always, if you can’t find these specific strains at your local dispensary, you can always ask your budtender for their favorite purple, pink, or orange strains. After all, like everything in nature, each individual cannabis flower contains its own multitudes of interwoven colors.
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