Small leaves that, together with other sugar leaves, hold cannabis buds together. They are called sugar leaves within the cannabis industry because of the high concentration of trichomes that cover the leaf with a sugarlike appearance. Because of their high concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, sugar leaves are typically trimmed off of the plant after harvest and are then used for the production of concentrates.
What are sugar leaves?
Sugar leaves develop and grow out of cannabis colas, or buds, during the plant's flowering stage. Colas typically begin forming slowly on the cannabis plant during the first 14 days of flowering. From day 14 to 28, bud development accelerates and sugar leaves begin to form. Both colas and sugar leaves are typically rich in trichomes, the tiny glandular hairs found all over the surface of the cannabis plant. Trichomes are responsible for producing cannabinoids and terpenes. High concentrations of trichomes add a sticky feel and crystal-like sheen to a cannabis plant surface, which is typically most apparent on colas and sugar leaves. While fan leaves found on the cannabis plant also have trichomes, they are far less concentrated in comparison.
Can you smoke sugar leaves?
Technically speaking, yes, you can smoke sugar leaves. As evident in the coating of crystal-like trichomes that give these leaves their name, there is certainly a substantial amount of cannabinoids and terpenes in this plant matter. And that means that you can smoke them just like you can smoke flower.
If you want to smoke your sugar leaf stash, plan on drying and curing them just as you do with flower. But remember, although sugar leaves produce cannabinoids and terpenes, they don't have nearly as much as cured cannabis buds, which means that you will not get the same results if you try smoking sugar leaf on its own. All in all, if you're determined to smoke sugar leaves, it's best to simply leave them on the flower and smoke them all together.
How to dry sugar leaves
The most effective way to dry sugar leaves is to leave them on the colas of the plant. Instead of trimming them off as part of the drying and curing process, simply leave them on and let the entire thing — cola and sugar leaves — dry and cure together. That way, you don't have to introduce additional steps to your harvesting process and ensure that all plant matter dries and cures evenly and at the same time. Keep in mind, on a gram-for-gram basis, cured cannabis flowers with sugar leaves intact will be less potent than cannabis flowers that have them removed.
Trimming sugar leaves
Once a cannabis plant is harvested and dried, the bud is then trimmed and manicured for commercial distribution. Cultivators typically trim sugar leaves to make buds look more appealing to consumers and improve the overall quality of the product. While most cultivators trim their cannabis after drying, some prefer to trim while the plant is still wet. When left on the bud for a dry trim, sugar leaves offer the bud protection throughout the drying process.
Buds that have been completely trimmed of all visible sugar leaves offer a tidier presentation that most cannabis users are accustomed to. And while sugar leaves are rich in trichomes, their concentration still isn't as high as that of a cola, which means sugar leaves decrease overall cannabinoid and terpene concentration by volume when left on the bud. In other words, a gram of bud with sugar leaves intact will have a lower cannabinoid and terpene concentration than a gram of completely trimmed bud. Colas with sugar leaves still intact also produce a harsher smoke for the consumer.
You've probably noticed that some buds contain small leaves while others are completely leafless. Some cultivators may leave sugar leaves on the bud if they have a particularly attractive trichome sheen that may add to the bud's aesthetic value. Others may prefer to leave them on to add weight to their yield. Whether sugar leaves are left on a cultivated bud depends entirely on the cultivator who did the trimming and manicuring.
What to do with sugar leaves: sugar trim in concentrates
Sugar leaves, frequently covered in cannabinoid and terpene-rich trichomes, are often used to make cannabis concentrates. The goal with a concentrate is to isolate and accumulate the plant's cannabinoids and terpenes for maximum potency. Sugar trim may not be as potent as cannabis flowers, but the relatively high amounts of trichomes found in sugar trim makes it a great source for isolating and concentrating the most desirable compounds of the cannabis plant, so much so that the end result is guaranteed to be more potent than dry flower.
If you plan on using sugar trim to make concentrates, exercise care when handling plant material. Each instance of contact can result in trichome loss or damage. Whenever possible, hold your plant and branches by the end of the stem, and be as careful as possible with your sugar leaf trimmings. Ideally, you'll want to trim your plants over a screen to collect trichomes that may break off.