What are Overripe Buds and Can You Still Smoke Them?

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Added 09 November 2022

Harvesting your cannabis plant at the right time is an intricate process where timing is everything. The window for harvest is narrow — harvest a little too soon and the buds will be underripe and not so potent, but if you wait too long to harvest, the buds will overripen, leading to the same effects of under-potency. 

Thing is…you wait for months to enjoy the results of your hard work. After the plant reaches its pre-flowering stage and the little pistils appear, you whoop with joy. As the days progress and the plant enters the bloom stage, you will see clusters of pistils. Pretty soon, you’ll start preparing to harvest them with the assumption that they are ripe — but are they?

Chances are that the buds are either overripe or underripe — a common mistake many new growers commit. If you intend to harvest massive buds teeming with THC, harvesting the plant at the right time is super critical. 

But what if you missed that window and now your buds are overripe? It’s not the end of your cannabis world. There is a chance you can still smoke overripe buds, but not always. 

Let’s dive deeper into how to identify overripe cannabis buds and what to do about it. You’ll also know when to harvest so you don’t mess it up. Ready to give it a try? Let’s do it!

Why are Overripe Buds a Problem?

overripe marijuana

Overripe cannabis buds, as the name suggests, are buds that are overripe, i.e., the cannabis plant has matured far longer than necessary for a positive experience. And this is a problem for you as a cannabis user. 

Here are some of the reasons why overripe buds are a problem:

  • Overripe cannabis buds aren’t as potent as perfectly ripe buds. In severe cases, they can be severely ruined with no potency at all. 
  • Such buds also lose water, leading to a smaller size, which can affect their bag appeal and also smoke quality 
  • They may not always be smooth or comfortable to smoke as overripe buds can be harsh on your throat.  
  • Overripe buds are also more prone to mold
  • Lastly, overripe cannabis buds may also make you extra sleepy as THC degrades over time and turns to CBN, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is highly sedative 

Now, what causes overripe buds — there are a few reasons. The first and most common reason is missing the harvest window of your cannabis plant. 

Another reason why buds sometimes overripen is due to over-fertilization or if the plant produces pollen. Climate conditions are another common factor for overripening of cannabis buds — for example, if your local climate is less humid or if it does not receive adequate light during the flowering stage. 

How do Cannabis Buds Ripen?

Understanding how cannabis buds ripen is a crucial step in knowing how to identify overripe buds and using them properly. The ripening process of the buds is meticulous and requires utmost care and zero stress. 

Generally, depending on your cannabis strain and grow environment, buds ripen in 7 to 12 weeks, following this rough timeline:

Cannabis flowering Week 4-6

  • Week four of flowering: This is when the pistils start popping out of the internodes. They will be white and straight. 
  • Week six: The plant stops growing and skinny buds begin to thicken

Cannabis flowering Week 6-8

  • Week eight: The colas start maturing, the pistils turn brown, and the smell of the buds becomes pungent.

Cannabis flowering Week 9-10

  • Week nine to ten: Some trichomes turn amber, orange pistils turn inwards, and resin starts glistening. The pistils will also curl up, indicating that the plant is ready. 

Cannabis flowering after week 10

  • After week ten: The buds begin to overripe, turning brown and smelling nasty (more on this later). 

Depending on your plant’s genetics, week nine and ten are the most crucial for harvesting. If you miss this window, your buds will begin to overripe. 

There will be a slight difference in this period for auto-flowering cannabis plants, though. Since they don’t depend on light like photoperiod plants to begin flowering, they will start showing pistils between the 4th and the 5th week. Some plants may start by week 6, depending on their genetics. 

  • Week four after germination: The pistils start popping out of the internodes. They will be completely white and stand straight. 
  • Week five: Several pistils burst out from the flowers that are forming. They will still be white and straight. 
  • Week six: The plant stops growing and skinny buds start to swell up. You’ll also notice a bit of resin. The pistils will start showing slight color changes. 
  • Week seven: The pistils start changing color gradually from white to red, orange, or amber. Again, the color depends on the strain. Unlike photoperiods which take several weeks for this transition, it only takes a couple of weeks for autoflowers.
  • Week eight: The colas start maturing, the pistils turn brown, and the smell of the buds becomes pungent. 
  • Week nine to ten: Some of the trichomes turn amber, orange pistils turn inwards, and resin starts glistening. 
  • After week ten: The buds begin to overripe, turning brown and smelling nasty (more on this later). 

Note that there’s an emphasis on the shape and color of the pistils. When the plant is young, the pistils are white, slender, and stand straight up. They protrude from the calyx of the flower in an attempt to get pollinated and thus produce seeds. 

However, when the plant begins to mature, you’ll notice that the pistils begin to curl and change colors as well. This is an indication that the plant has slowed down and isn’t looking for pollination to produce seeds, which means that the buds are beginning to overripe. 

What are Pistils and Trichomes?

There are a few ways to check if your cannabis buds are ripe. Pistils and trichomes are two of the most common visual indicators to help you determine when you can harvest your precious plants. 

Since both trichomes and pistils change their colors and shape when the plant advances toward maturity, it’s easy to use them as indicators. If you want to take it a step further, you can also opt for chemical tests for accurate results.

But first, you need to understand and distinguish between pistils and trichomes. Sometimes new growers get confused between these two terms that are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same.

What are Pistils?

Cannabis pistils

Pistils are a part of the cannabis plant's reproductive organs. In simple terms, a pistil is a small hair protruding from the calyx found on the female bud or flower. These are the organs that come in contact with pollen and produce seeds.

At first, you'll see just a few pistils on your female cannabis plant but as it progresses into its flowering stage, you'll see a sudden burst of several pistils, making it appear like one single flower. 

What are Trichomes?

Cannabis trichomes

Trichomes are resinous glands found in various parts of the plant, including buds and sugar leaves. They look a lot like hair, which is why people get confused between pistils and trichomes.

Once a cannabis plant forms tiny trichomes on its surface, the trichomes begin synthesizing resins containing cannabinoids and terpenes such as CBD and your favorite THC. Of course, other parts also consist of some terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids, but trichomes have the maximum concentration.

Essentially, you need to harvest the plant when the trichomes are ripe and ready to get maximum benefits.

How to Check for the Ripeness of Cannabis?

Now that you understand pistils and trichomes and how they are different, it's time to see when to harvest the buds.

How to Check for Ripeness of Cannabis via the Pistils?

How to Check for Ripeness of Cannabis via the Pistils?

Checking for ripeness via the pistils is a good method but it isn’t as accurate as the trichome method. However, it’s great for someone who’s growing only a few plants and doesn’t want to purchase a magnifier or a loupe just yet. 

First, wait for the plant to come to the end of the cycle, according to the breeder’s instructions. For example, if a seed is supposed to mature in 8 weeks, you should be looking at the pistils from the 7th week. It’s common for plants to exceed their maturity date, so it’s okay if the pistils haven’t changed their colors completely. 

Once 50% of the pistils turn brown, you should start paying attention. The plant is just about ready. You’ll also see that the buds at the top have brown pistils while the ones in the lower branches are still white. In such cases, you can harvest the tops and let the remaining buds change colors too. 

The best period to harvest is when 70% of the pistils have turned amber or brown and curled inwards. This is the point when most cultivators harvest their buds. If you wait more and let more than 80-90% of pistils turn amber, the plant is perhaps past its maturity. 

How to Check for Ripeness of Cannabis via the Trichomes?

If you have a jeweler’s loupe or a magnifier, it becomes very easy to identify when the plant is at its peak. Compared to the pistil method, it’s more accurate so we recommend you buy a good loupe to check if you’re growing cannabis plants regularly. 

Trichomes don’t change colors instantly. Like with the pistils, it’s gradual and occurs according to the plant’s growth. As the plant progresses more into the flowering stage, the trichomes that appeared clear earlier will look milky or opaque. If you see most trichomes turning opaque, it’s time to harvest the buds as the cannabinoids and terpenes production will be at the peak. 

However, all trichomes will not appear opaque. You’ll see a few trichomes turning amber or brown, just like the pistils. If a large percentage of the trichomes have turned brown, the plant is past its prime. 

To check for trichome ripeness, wait for the plant to reach its maturity date like you would with the pistil method. Next, get your loupe or a hand-held microscope to check the trichomes. Once you have everything set, zoom into the leaves and you’ll see bulbous structures resembling mushrooms. It’s not too difficult to identify them if you have a good magnifier. 

Focus on the trichomes until you can see them clearly. You’ll see thousands of trichomes sparkling like crystals. Whether you’re a recreational or a medicinal cannabis user, this is where the magic happens as the trichomes are filled with cannabinoids that produce various effects. 

Trichomes can be clear, milky, mixed, or amber in color. Every stage will produce a different effect if you harvest at that point. 

Clear trichomes

clear trichomes

Clear trichomes indicate that your plants are almost reaching their peak levels of maturity. The translucent trichomes are producing resin gradually at this point. If you harvest when most trichomes are clear or translucent, not only with the yields suffer, but you also will feel speedy or heady effects when you smoke the bud. 

Cloudy Trichomes

cloudy trichomes

Cloudy trichomes indicate that the plant is in its prime stage. If most trichomes are cloudy, you’re good to chop off the plant. 

Amber/Mixed trichomes

mixed trichomes

Amber trichomes indicate that the plant is progressing past its maturity. If you want to experience couch-lock effects, you can harvest when some of the trichomes have turned amber. 

How to Identify Overripe Cannabis Buds?

We have explained how to check the ripeness of cannabis buds through pistils and trichomes. However, other ways work as confluence to these two methods. 

In short, you must learn to read your cannabis plant. The plant is quite communicative, visually, if you know how to read the signs. Identifying if buds are overripe is a matter of observation. So, in conclusion, here are some of the signs you should look out for.

  • Trichomes Turn Brown, Bordering on Black

As mentioned already, trichomes are the easiest and most precise way of knowing if the buds are ripe. During the flowering stage, trichomes start turning amber. Later, as it ripens to its peak, more than 50% of the trichomes are milky while the rest will be clear.  

You can harvest at this point to get a good cerebral high but you can wait for some of the trichomes to turn amber. However, if more than 15% of the trichomes are turning amber, or if most of them are turning brown or nearing black, the buds are overripe. 

  • Most Pistils Turn Brown

If most of the pistils have turned amber in color, the plant is past its maturity. It’s good to harvest when at least 70% of the pistils have turned amber. 

  • The Signature Cannabis Scent Becomes Faint

During the flowering stage when the buds start growing trichomes, your garden will smell like cannabis. The pungent smell is impossible to ignore (or cover, unless you use a carbon filter). 

But over time, if you don’t harvest the plant, the cannabis scent of skunk, fruit, or pine will start to faint. This is another sign that the buds are overripe. But don’t worry, the scent can still be restored to a great extent with proper drying and curing post-harvest.

  • Buds Turn Brown 

You can also look at the buds to know if they are properly ripe. As the buds mature, they start turning yellow-orange and the trichomes cover them with sugar leaves surrounding the buds. During this time, the buds get the classic green-orange look to them.

And when they overripen, the color changes to mostly brown. At the same time, the buds also start appearing smaller and shriveled as they lose their water content. The stems may also weaken and start bending when the buds are overripe as the plant loses its integrity. 

  • Plant Starts Losing Its Green Color

When the flowering stage begins, the plant starts growing bud sites and dropping its fan leaves, which leaves it with less chlorophyll to produce energy. But despite the lack of chlorophyll, the plant seems healthy until it’s too late.

When the buds have ripened, the plant starts losing its vivid greenery — it appears brown, and parts of it become dry and brittle. This is a sign that the buds are overripe.

Can You Smoke Overripe Buds?

Depending on various factors, especially how far the buds have ripened, you may still be able to smoke them or use them to create your cannabis products. 

Overripe buds are safe to smoke in three instances, which are:

  1. The trichomes on the buds have not gone completely black 
  2. The buds have a faint cannabis smell; if they smell nasty or unpleasant, you shouldn’t smoke them
  3. The sugar leaves are still somewhat green

But one factor where you should not smoke buds is if they have turned completely brown or have mold formation on them. Such buds only produce a harsh, thick smoke with a nasty aftertaste, and moldy buds are not safe for your health — they can cause various health complications. It is best to toss out the buds that are brown or moldy. 

Protip: Toss your buds in the garden where grass grows to shred them to pieces. Otherwise, if you are tossing them in the trash, ensure you destroy them completely to not surprise anyone that may be handling the trash. 

How to Cure Overripe Cannabis Buds?

But before you smoke overripe buds, ensure you dry and cure them correctly to restore their essence of flavor and scent while preserving the terpenes. If you don’t cure and dry them well, overripe buds will taste weird and won’t be as potent. Plus, they can start growing mold on them. 

Follow these steps to dry and cure overripe buds properly:

  1. Hang the buds upside down or place them on a drying rack in a relatively dark, enclosed space, and rotate them regularly so they can dry evenly.
  2. Keep the buds away from sunlight and artificial light for a gradual drying process which will preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids — the best temperature and humidity for drying are 60°F to 70°F (15°C to 21°C) and 45% to 55% RH, respectively. Also, ensure that the air is fresh — you can use a small fan to circulate the air. 

The drying process will take 7 to 14 days, depending on the buds’ ripeness, genetics, and other environmental factors. To check if they are properly dried, try tearing one bud apart.

  1. Once the buds are dry, it's time to trim them into smaller buds and remove all the unnecessary plant materials. Cut off the sugar leaves and branches and other plant matter. 
  2. Then, you can store them in glass mason jars — fill the jars ¾ full, leaving some space at the top to prevent mold and bacterial growth.
  3. Optional: you can also gently crush a couple of buds to break the trichomes, which will spread over other buds, enhancing their flavor profile. 
  4. Store the jars in a cool, dark place at around 64°F or 18°C with a relative humidity of around 55% to 62%.
  5. Ensure you burp the containers for 20 minutes a couple of times everyday. 

Your cannabis buds will be ready to use after three weeks in the container for curing. Note that overripe cannabis buds may not be as potent or flavorful as you would expect, so use them accordingly.

In any case, if the buds taste too harsh or grow mold, toss them. It is not worth the effort of smoking buds that have ripened too much. They likely won’t get you high and will irritate your throat.

Summary: What are Overripe Buds and Can You Still Smoke Them?

If you have missed the harvest window, don’t worry yet. Overripe buds can still be salvaged. In most cases, you can still smoke overripe buds if you harvest them immediately and dry and cure them properly. 

Eventually, look at this situation as a learning experience. Now you know more about how to harvest your buds at the right time, and that is all that matters. You will get a better yield in your next batch if you learn from this experience. 

And to avoid this in the future, learn how to read the buds properly and understand your strain’s expected bloom time. You will nail your next harvest without overripening the buds. 


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Hi, Good News of the world When the stygmata pistil turns brown the female flower has become infertile and/or pregnate, in the same way as a mature dried weed is brown, It’s the best time to smoke it or make hash 😃