Green, Orange, Red, and Purple Marijuana: A Guide to Pigmentation and Potency
Do you prefer green or purple marijuana? According to a majority of cannabis consumers, the color and look of a plant is one of the biggest factors when deciding which strain to buy.
But why? What does the color of cannabis say about its effects (if anything)? And is colorful marijuana the next step in the evolution of our favorite plant? Or is purple pot just a trend?
How Pot Gets Its Pigmentation
Cannabis coloration can be tied to two primary factors: genetics and the plant’s growing environment. A plant’s genetics affect the prevalence of pigments like anthocyanins and carotenoids. This is true for a wide variety of plants—not just marijuana. So how do these difficult to pronounce pigments work?
Most plants appear green because of the abundance of chlorophyll. But cannabis, like leaves in the Fall, reaches a point where the production of chlorophyll halts, allowing other pigments to show through.
Anthocyanins are a large group of pigments—approximately 400 in cannabis—known as flavonoids. These flavonoids are responsible for many of the blue and purple hues found in popular strains like Granddaddy Purple and Purple Kush.
Anthocyanins are produced for more than aesthetics, helping protect plants against ultraviolet radiation, pathogens, and more. And, despite the tasty-sounding name, flavonoids have nothing to do with a strain’s flavor.
Carotenoids are the set of pigments that promote gold, yellow, red, and orange coloration. In addition to their beautiful sunset-citrus hues, carotenoids are associated with a variety of health benefits, from eye health to male fertility. My parents always told me to eat my carrots when I was growing up so I could see better (their orange color and health benefits stem from a high concentration of carotenoids). If only science had been more advanced all those years ago they may have been encouraging me to smoke Lemon Kush.
The presence of anthocyanins or carotenoids alone isn’t enough to guarantee a colorful crop, though. To truly bring out the desired reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, blues, and purples, growers have to use the environment.
Plants naturally stop producing chlorophyll when the days get shorter and the temperature drops. So, it stands to reason that growers could duplicate and control the effect in an indoor grow.
By controlling temperature and pH levels, many growers are able to foster deeper coloration in cannabis flowers. Decreasing the temperature and keeping the pH levels neutral or slightly higher can encourage purple and blue pigmentation in strains with the right chemical predisposition. For orange, yellow, and gold coloration, plants are typically grown in alkaline conditions (higher pH levels).
Similarly, using LED lights on a certain spectrum can “stress” the plant, causing it to produce more anthocyanins as a sort of sunscreen. Some growers will even alter the nutrients a plant receives as a way to promote coloration (less phosphorous can cause a red tint in the leaves and buds of some plants, for example).
So some cannabis strains are naturally predisposed to look like Skittles ads. Others require careful cultivation to bring about the deep purples, ruby reds, and golden yellows consumers crave.
The final question to answer is maybe the most important: does the color of weed affect its potency?
Is Colorful Marijuana More Potent?
Many cannabis consumers believe purple bud is a higher quality than green. And a deep, richly colorful weed really is a thing of beauty. But will you get a different, longer lasting, or more potent high if you smoke purple or orange weed instead of green?
The short answer is no. But also maybe yes.
The levels of cannabinoids in a marijuana plant are relatively steady regardless of color. Purple plants aren’t any stronger than green ganja, blue bud, or the rarer pink pot. It can be fun to pull out a bag of bud so colorful it looks like a character from the Muppets, but you won’t get a higher THC concentration. Pigmentation just doesn’t play a role in cannabinoid potency.
There is some evidence that deeper red and purple pot—so deep it appears black—offers a more cerebral high than the average strain. On the other hand, the colder conditions that encourage purple pigmentation to shine through in many strains might actually limit the production of THC, capping a plant’s potency. In either case, such strains can be exceptionally difficult to find, and the same effects can be found in green bud far more easily (and at a lower cost).
So you won’t get higher smoking purple marijuana. Good to know. What about the non-psychoactive effects of marijuana, though. As it turns out, the color of cannabis may correlate to the health benefits of the plant. Anthocyanins are known for their role as antioxidants (they’re found in many berries), and studies have suggested they may provide other health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties. It isn’t that these benefits can’t be found in traditional green bud, but visible coloration can serve as a sign that a plant has more anthocyanins and carotenoids, suggesting it will provide greater antioxidant and pain-killing benefits.
So the next time you buy bud, remember that the color of your cannabis means about as much as a paint job on your car. A pop of color looks nice, but it won’t change the way you handle the product or how you feel when you’re done. And if you want strong, clean grown marijuana (regardless of color), stop by Karing Kind in North Boulder.
Karing Kind is Boulder’s First Recreational Marijuana Dispensary
We strive to offer a top-tier experience every time you enter our store. Our extensive menu of clean-grown bud, award-winning budtenders, incredible deals, and the lowest marijuana tax rate in the state make us the perfect Colorado cannabis destination.
Karing Kind is located just off of US-36, one mile north of Broadway, open daily from 9am to 10pm.
While we carry a variety of strains, concentrates, edibles, salves and tinctures, inventory and stock levels fluctuate from week to week and month to month. Check our menu and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for an up-to-date list of edibles, concentrates and buds available now.