When we think of weed, we naturally think of the color green. However, buying weed is actually more like picking paint colors to put on a palette — cannabis flowers take on a whole spectrum of colors from red to blue and black to white. The natural instinct is to reach for whatever has the prettiest color and catches the eye most easily. You’ll buy the purple one not because it’s the most potent, but because it looks cool. Marijuana comes in a kaleidoscope of different hues, and the diversity among colors is due to a wide range of genetic and environmental factors. Cannabis breeders have noted this, and even strategically breed their strains to display more vibrant colors that will appeal to users.
All marijuana is green from the beginning. The green color remains with the plant through its infancy but then starts to change when the plant matures. The colors expressed in marijuana are all influenced by multiple factors: nutrients, environmental pH (soil alkalinity), sunlight, and temperature. For example, cooler temperatures tend to inhibit chlorophyll production, and chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color. As a result, new hues have the chance to reveal themselves as seasons change and plants mature.
All plants contain compounds called phytochemicals, which are responsible for the expression of these different colors. Anthocyanins belong to a class of phytochemicals called flavonoids that influence the colors of weed, and varying levels of anthocyanins color the plant in shades from red to black. An important note — weed with richer color is not necessarily more potent than weed with less pronounced color, nor does it have anything to do with the quality of your psychoactive high if you smoke it. Here are some brief explanations of the various hues found in marijuana and why they appear.
Red and Pink
Red and pink strains of marijuana usually get their colors from anthocyanins, which also contain antioxidant qualities. These shades rarely occur naturally in weed buds, which makes them more desirable among certain cannabis users. It is more common to see red hairs (pistils) than it is to see red buds. Occasionally, the plant will take on a red or pink hue as a result of a phosphorous deficiency in the soil.
Examples of red and pink strains: Red Poison, Red Dragon, Pink Panther, Pink Flower Shaman, Predator Pink, Pink Flamingo
Orange and Yellow
Carotenoids are another family of pigments that plays a role in coloring marijuana. They are responsible for yellow and orange colors found in plants. In the human body, they help facilitate vitamin A production. Marijuana strains with gold, yellow, and champagne hues usually grow in alkaline soils or environments where the pH is higher. Another factor that can cause yellow to orange tingeing in weed is nitrogen deficiency. In nitrogen-poor environments, chlorophyll production is stifled, resulting in yellowed leaves and buds.
Examples of yellow and orange strains: Orange Bud, Lemon Kush, Grapefruit, Nectarine, Olive Oyl, Kandy Skunk, Wicked OG
While all immature marijuana plants start out green, only some retain their green hue through maturity. Chlorophyll, which causes the expression of green hues in plants, typically masks other pigments unless other environmental factors disrupt its function. In many cases, a true green color indicates that a marijuana plant was exposed to plenty of sunlight.
Examples of green strains: Green Crack, Green Haze, Green Goblin
Blue and Purple
Various shades of blue and purple found in marijuana contain large amounts of anthocyanins. This trend is expressed in other plants as well — berries, eggplant, and purple cabbage are all incredibly rich in anthocyanins. The cannabis plant remains green while it is still young, but with maturity changes color as anthocyanin production increases. If the buds and leaves of weed are purple in hue, it was probably grown in a more neutral pH environment. If they’re blue, they were likely grown in a higher pH environment (alkaline soil). In the cannabis industry, purple is one of the most common hues available. Purple and blue colors are also good indicators of the “fruitiness” of a particular marijuana strain.
Examples of blue and purple strains: Blueberry, Blue Dream, Blue Cheese, Purple Urkle, Granddaddy Purple, Purple Orangutan, Purple Haze
When buds on a cannabis plant have been cultivated to their absolute maximum potential, they are covered in white, frosty-looking trichomes. These trichomes are rich in cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, as well as terpenes, which cause the flower to be especially potent. If you smoke a strain with white-looking buds, your psychoactive high is guaranteed to be much more powerful. Another factor that can cause white pigmentation in marijuana is a class of flavonoids called anthoxanthins, which possess colors ranging from cream to yellow.
Examples of white strains: White Widow, White Rhino
There are a few rare strains of marijuana with black buds. This unusual coloring is due to an exceptional abundance of anthocyanins that turn the plant so dark it appears black. Something interesting to note about black strains is that they can induce very intense psychedelic highs. They are an ideal option for anyone looking for an extra kick during a session.
Examples of black strains: Vietnamese Black, Black Willy, Black Tuna
What color can tell you about environmental factors
While color won’t always tell you the exact science behind a strain, it often serves as a good indicator of the environment in which the marijuana was harvested, as well as the general quality of the product. For example, vibrant colors suggest that the strain is still fresh, while faded colors of the same hue are a sign of diminished taste and potency. The presence of white trichomes points to extra potency in a strain. Buds rich in anthocyanins — namely, blue and purple flowers — may contain fruitier flavors. Red or yellow hues that appear unexpectedly may indicate imperfections in the weed, such as a phosphorus or nitrogen deficiency in the environment. And, finally, the growing temperature can be gauged from the color of marijuana as well. Green variations probably had exposure to the most sunlight, while the presence of other colors suggests an inhibition of chlorophyll’s function, and therefore lower temperatures or a seasonal change.