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How Are White Tips Formed on Cannabis Buds?

August 8, 2017
Do White Tips on Cannabis Buds Indicates Higher Quality?(Trevor Hennings for Leafly)
When Washington state cannabis producer Vashon Velvet’s Susan Gress began using LED lights to grow cannabis, she noticed that white tips began sporadically appearing in her garden. Confused, Gress had a few visitors come to the property and take a look at her grow.

The first visitor, Bob Montoya, is a photographer who works with NW Leaf. Montoya came in with a high-powered macro lens and took images of the white tips.

“[He] came to take pictures of our grow for NW Leaf and photographed a white tip,” Gress explained. “So, I asked him, do they look damaged? ‘Oh my god,’ he replied, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it, this is trichomes on top of trichomes!’”


What are trichomes and why do they exist on cannabis?

The second visitor, Dr. Ethan Russo, is a renowned neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher who is heavily involved in the exploration of cannabis and its effects/benefits. When Dr. Russo visited the farm, he found both the plants and their white tips to be exceptionally healthy.

Multiple witnesses confirmed the existence of these curious white tips, but what, if anything, makes them noteworthy aside from their unique appearance?

Are White Tips an Indication of Higher Quality?

Cannabis white tips

(Trevor Hennings for Leafly)

When Gress took the white tips in for testing, she was surprised by the results.

“We’ve had white tips analyzed separately from the green part of the same bud and found they have higher [concentrations of] THC and much higher terpenes than the rest of the plant,” she noted.

At this point, Vashon Velvet felt confident that this wasn’t an issue in their garden; instead, it was something to be excited about. Now the white tips are sought out by consumers where Vashon Velvet flower is sold. While cannabis connoisseurs chase down the coveted white tips, Gress began exploring how they came to exist in the first place.

What Causes White Tips to Form?

White-tipped cannabis buds in an LED lit grow room

(Trevor Hennings for Leafly)

“We were shocked at the ‘white tips’ on our first crop,” said Gress. “We Googled and read that this was damaged, bleached, or burned bud. But they looked so healthy that we didn’t believe it.”

It’s unlikely that the tips are burned because the rest of the plant would show signs of being burnt as well. Leaves lower down would lose their color, shrivel up, and die, and the bud itself would just die instead of appearing white.

Some speculate that the buds are being bleached by the intensity of the light source. Many of the buds at Vashon Velvet, however, ended up producing white tips despite not being closest to the LEDs. Furthermore, LED lights are energy-efficient, so they produce next to no heat, which allows the LED fixtures to be raised and lowered without fear of burning the buds.


Just How Good Are LED Lights for Growing Cannabis?

Gress thinks the white tips are unique to LED growing, and although they don’t extend beyond the initial tips of the bud colas, they demonstrate the ability of an LED system. Since switching to an LED setup, she’s noticed other potential benefits as well, such as canopies that stretch less with shorter internodal spacing, which are traits attributed to plants receiving adequate light.

While Vashon Velvet is having a positive experience with LEDs, this lighting setup is not the industry standard at this time, mainly because of its initial cost. An LED light fixture that can replace a standard 1000 watt HID system can cost close to $2,000, whereas the HID system ranges between $200-$500. Growers who opt to invest in LED technology will eventually save money in energy, bulb replacement, and climate control, but with such a heavy upfront investment, many remain disinterested in making the switch.


Sustainable Gardening Practices for Growing Cannabis

Nevertheless, LEDs are here to stay at Vashon Velvet, who have had an overwhelmingly positive experience thus far. Gress even offered some advice to growers interested in making the switch, saying, “Don’t buy a cheap brand and expect the same results as the higher-priced lights. LEDs were developed for the pharmaceutical industry at great cost, and we get the benefit of that research.”

Depending on where growers live, they may also be able to receive rebates for the use of environmentally-friendly LEDs over HID systems to help offset the costs. As the market continues to grow for cannabis and more operations choosing to to grow indoors, it’s important to look into alternative methods for cultivation to lower the industry’s environmental footprint and move towards sustainable growing.

The constant improvement in cannabis grow technology, nutrients, genetics, and tactics has led to surprising new developments for the plant. Have you grown cannabis with white tips before, or have you consumed white-tipped bud? Share your stories in the comments!

Leafly Staff's Bio Image

Leafly Staff

Leafly is the world’s largest cannabis information resource, empowering people in legal cannabis markets to learn about the right products for their lifestyle and wellness needs. Our team of cannabis professionals collectively share years of experience in all corners of the market, from growing and retail, to science and medicine, to data and technology.

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  • Legalize420

    There is no other possible explanation other than them being bleached. I had the sane thing happen with a sour diesel plant I grew with a 4 24w bulb 96w T5 flouresscent. It grew into the bulb but only the calyx turned white rest looked fine. It’s bleaching plain and simple. Makes it sound interesting though and the people who look for this are proof anything can be sold with the right story behind it.

    • Bob Btme

      Thanks L420, you’re absolutely right. The only time I’ve seen this is when the LED fixture is too close to the plants. I’ve heard it can happen with air-cooled HID although I’ve not seen it myself. It’s called “light burn” or bleaching. The flowers are fine for consumption, but it’s not a healthy feature, more of a bug to be worked out, the plant tissue is shocked and cannot produce chlorophyll.

      • dcard88

        What part of “the white tipped buds tested stronger” are you attempting to refute with an educated (at best) guess?

  • This is not new. Over the decades I frequently have seen white tendrils on buds. Mostly outdoor grown and apparently random, these buds were always very potent. The density of these white buds is remarkable.

  • Tom Lavoie

    I’m growing an Afghani HOG and it is doing the same thing on the main cola. Yes my setup is with LED’s also and only one white tip out of three plants!

  • Terry

    I grow with LED and have had several white buds. I thought they were burned at first, but there was no other sign of heat stress. The buds were just as good as the rest.

  • DCBC

    The LED folks would like to claim this phenomenon but i’ve had this happen in a small 6×4 room with a 600 hps kicking out 90,000 lumens. Too much light too close, the room wasn’t too hot at all. Also not only is the cost of LED high but also i think you need 1000w,s of LED to broadcast light to as much area as a 1000w HID,sure longevity and a greater spectrum but way too much money. Also for years people have been saying that is light bleaching,nothing new but people looking for a trend.

    • dcard88

      Nope. Sorry. My 900 w LED’s cost $300 and put out as many lumens as your 600 beyond any doubt. How much did your 600’s cost? Read something besides one article

      • DCBC

        well i would hope your 900w’s puts out far more than my 600w and i’ve researched and watched LED’s for frickin years and our shops in Vic don’t even promote them at all. I get can get over 2 pounds off one 600HPS in a 4″x 6″x 3.5″ tall room. Read something besides one article, what a stupid thing to say how do you know what i’ve read besides you completely missed my actually well known point about LIGHT BLEACHED BUDS. Oh and when it gets more light and gets stressed like that it makes more trichs and can get denser but to tell the truth i’ve always found them to be stronger but much harsher.

        • dcard88

          To tell you the truth (lol), I was smoking pot before you were born. I have had one or 2 instances of white on top of colas. I have bleached dozens of crops.

          • DCBC

            well you have been smoking too much because you don’t even know how old i am and it’s not worth my time arguing with you many people agree with me and point out the same results.

          • dcard88

            “many people agree with me’ ” lol 5? 26? Apparently not old enough to know how a debate works, but its good that your time is valuable.

          • DCBC

            enough with the insults, you tell me ” I was smoking pot before you were born ” well we were talking about growing it and again you have know idea what my age is. Also you keep changing the arguement so i don’t think you get it.

          • dcard88

            I graduated from LSU in ’75
            Your personal experience is exactly that and nothing more. You are welcome to argue with the experts who wrote this article.

          • DCBC

            That’s exactly who i was arguing with, the one that wrote the paper not you, writing an article dosen’t make you an expert grower. Many of these articles are full of bull and myth. It’s my personal expierence and many others that call this claim to be wrong! Like this quote for instance by legalize420 “Outdoor bud could never be more potent than indoor other than with terpines” again B.S. my comrads and myself on the island have grown outdoor that would make you guys turn white and puke it’s so strong. Othern peoples pot dosen’t even get me high especially anything from the commercial dispenseries.

    • Jason Back

      You are so wrong. Probably another HID loyalist who is too close-minded to give LEDs a chance.

      • DCBC

        Yes all the quality LED’s i’ve seen promoted by other professional growers are expensive, $2000 to light the room just like ceramic metal halides are expensive as well. I agree that both LED and ceramic metal halides are capable of greater light spectrums,they are newer technology but they have not been mass produced as long hence the higher cost. I am not at all closed minded and have been doing this for 30 years, you are closed minded because you missed my point,.My point really was about intense light causing white bud and that it’s not the LED doing it i’ve seen it plenty of times under HID. Also that LED’s are more direct and don’t have the dispersion and reflection aside from some of the NASA ones= expensive. My 600w HPS or a 1000w is like your own miniature sun hanging in the room.

  • This is called bleaching and it happens when your bud is getting to much light and/or heat or is too close to the light source. It does not increase the trichomes in any way, it’s considered damaged bud.

    • Patrick Morton

      didn’t you read the article? they determined it was not bleaching and that it was in fact trichomes.

      • Legalize420

        Don’t believe everything you read. It’s a spectrum issue burning cloraphyl not trichombs. It’s very possible to assume it is based on that fact as mutations occur in cannabis due to stresses. Like leaves that curve due to air stress. Trichombs have to build cannabinoids. It’s word of mouth over factual data. I grow with a strong cheap led now myself. But despite not seeing this yet, I know that cannabis concentrates most of its energy to produce the best tips or colas. It’s very possible more trichomb stems grow because of this as a defense but it wouldn’t make it more potent and even if so, it would be negligible. Trichombs ARE the plants form of defense against animals and other natural pests/enemies. It would be amazing if a spectrum and intensity of light could increase trichomb production but that’s simply not fact.
        I wish it we’re true as it would be awesome to say “led makes cannabis more potent” but it realistically just replicates the suns rays more closely than HID. Outdoor bud could never be more potent than indoor other than with terpines. Hopefully no one ever genetically engineers a plant to produce double or more triches than a regular that would be terrifying to me.
        It’s also known colas or tops of plants are more potent than bottoms. So that could be behind this “phenomenon” of sorts. I don’t like being negative, just realistic.

        • It’s also known colas or tops of plants are more potent than bottoms.


          Outdoors the bottom buds get MORE lumens than the TOP buds indoors and are just as potent.

          Tested it myself with a light meter. Where I was at, lumens were off the scale outdoors.

          Also, outdoor weed can be better, tastier and
          more potent than indoors. Indoors tends to be spongy, outdoors more dense 😀

          • namzilla

            if you think outdoor weed is better i do not believe you have had any proper indoor . indoor weed is more dense, tastier, smellier. its because of the controlled climate for optimal conditions .

          • Mark Wright

            And alot less hassle

          • Fun Please

            Need to turn the switch on your light meter to the right setting

        • Straight shooting. The article is full of speculation and hypothesis and no real fact checking or references that are based on anything in the way of reputable science. I agree with your stress comment. Bleaching can also be the result of nutrients as well as other environmental conditions like you mention, not just heat. I honestly feel like the majority of articles here are written to not so subtly simply sell a product, in this case LED lights. (/two cents)

  • Open Minds


  • Karl Kulik

    Too many photons, plants cannot dissipate the energy, causing damage.

    The light-dependent generation of active oxygen species is termed photooxidative stress. This can occur in two ways: (1) the donation of energy or electrons directly to oxygen as a result of photosynthetic activity; (2) exposure of tissues to ultraviolet irradiation. The light-dependent destruction of catalase compounds the problem. Although generally detrimental to metabolism, superoxide and hydrogen peroxide may serve useful functions if rigorously controlled and compartmentalised. During photosynthesis the formation of active oxygen species is minimised by a number of complex and refined regulatory mechanisms. When produced, active oxygen species are eliminated rapidly by efficient antioxidative systems. The chloroplast is able to use the production and destruction of hydrogen peroxide to regulate the thermal dissipation of excess excitation energy. This is an intrinsic feature of the regulation of photosynthetic electron transport. Photoinhibition and photooxidation only usually occur when plants are exposed to stress. Active oxygen species are part of the alarm-signalling processes in plants. These serve to modify metabolism and gene expression so that the plant can respond to adverse environmental conditions, invading organisms and ultraviolet irradiation. The capacity of the antioxidative defense system is often increased at such times but if the response is not sufficient, radical production will exceed scavenging and ultimately lead to the disruption of metabolism. Oxidative damage arises in high light principally when the latter is in synergy with additional stress factors such as chilling temperatures or pollution. Environmental stress can modify the photooxidative processes in various ways ranging from direct involvement in light-induced free radical formation to the inhibition of metabolism that renders previously optimal light levels excessive. It is in just such situations that the capacity for the production of active oxygen species can exceed that for scavenging by the antioxidative defense systems.

    • Photohak


  • stewdad11

    Wow People are annoying!

  • Green Creek Genetics

    Leafly you gotta be kidding me right? So much bullshit in this article, i can’t believe it. Who the fuck writes this bullshit story’s here? This white albino traits are actually nothing new and can happen under any light. It has nothing to do with the LED lightning at all.

  • George Van Setters

    L O L

  • Kent Alexander

    Yes. I’ve encountered white tips on colas. The LED manufacturer and I have been coordinating on what causes this phenomenon. I had some tested and they came out at 20% thc, so we know the quality of these white tips is not being adversely affected. And, they don’t occur only at the top of the canopy. I’ve increased magnesium which seems to be controlling it somewhat, but… it’s a mystery!

  • HappyHighwayman

    I JUST had this happen and I thought it was mold or something so I cut it off 🙁

    • Mark Wright

      Hid growers will always be just that you can’t change their minds I say of it works it works and we are growing so why argue about someone else’s process to each their own I grow with led and I have great success so there

  • Photohak

    Ethan is a brilliant man. Susie is the right person at the right time. the day will come when this, and the sun will be the only way to do it right. They go a step further and use live pitcher plants for pest control. You can trust in this herb.

  • Eric Maxam

    Quick question? I have 2 plants growing outside and the buds sent huge yet but the buds are pure white is that good or do I need to do something different

  • Matthew Kaiser

    THCA synthase is FAD- and oxygen-dependent and generates hydrogen peroxide as a by-product…. Just a thought…