Are you tired of struggling to identify plants in your garden, park, or in the wild? It can be frustrating to know which plants are weeds. But don’t worry, we’re here to help!
At times, certain plants can look like weeds, making it difficult for even experienced gardeners to tell the difference. However, these plants are often viable living camouflage against people with untrained eyes, yet no matter the striking resemblance they are to weeds, they are not weeds.
Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a beginner, identifying and recognizing these plants is crucial. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of plants that look like weed but aren’t.
Don’t let the confusion of identifying plants get you down. With our guide, you’ll be able to differentiate between plants that are beneficial and those that are not.
If you happen to spot some plants that look like weeds in your backyard, in the park, or in the wild, refer to our guide to determine their true identity.
Take the first step towards a more informed and successful gardening experience by reading our guide today.
What Is a Weed?
Sometimes referred to as cannabis or marijuana, weeds are plants that usually have controversial associations or implications, and have served throughout history as medicinal plants.
Weeds have several features that make them very useful to society. For instance, they contain biochemical that serves as a treatment for several problems like inflammation and digestion, amongst others. Weeds also have anesthetic properties, like being used for fiber-making, oils, and even juices.
However, most countries around the world have considered them illegal, primarily because of their abuse by some of their citizens. Also known as hemp, a weed is one of several species of the genus Cannabis.
Generally, a weed leaf consists of 5 to 7 leaflets, technically a single leaf yet resembling five different leaves. These leaflets are seriously toothed or serrated and have sharp points.
The leaves have a paler underside than the upper part, and the stripes on the underside are uniquely embossed, while the upper parts feature fine hairs. Weeds often have a smell odor like that of cat pee or skunk spray. They feature buds that are often more colorful than the leaves and come with pistils, ranging from white, orange, to red colors.
Suppose you find yourself in cannabis or weeds growing area, you must seek safety measures by leaving the site as soon as possible.
Common Plants That Look Like Weed
We would be highlighting about 15 different plants several people often mistake for weeds, to help you differentiate and take proper action.
It is important to know that this striking resemblance often has to do with the leaves, as weeds have a common leaf structure across the world. The following are plants that look like weeds;
1. Spider Flowers (Cleome spp.)
The spider flower is one of the most popular plants that look like weeds. At first glance, you will certainly argue it to be a weed, as it features a very identical leaf structure and design, with 5 to 6 leaflets and dark green shade, which invariable is how weeds look like.
It also features long, pointy leaf tips of a weed that can be slightly serrated.
However, the only difference here is that its serration is not as clear as that of weed and can sometimes be non-existent, which gives the leaf edges a smooth, straight line.
The spider flower is a beautiful plant that decorates gardens, thanks to its stunning white, red, or purple flowers that blossom all summer and die off once the first frost approaches. It draws insects and pollinators.
2. Sunn Hemp (Crotalaria juncea)
Scientifically known as Crotalaria juncae, the sunn hemp is mainly popular for its giant stems, bushy leaves, and sometimes leaflet edges with serrations.
It also features buds that look like weeds (cannabis to be precise). Again, its stem possesses a grooved, rectangular shape with leaves that are a little distance away.
The sunn hemp is also referred to as madras hemp or Indian hemp, because of its striking resemblance to weeds. It is primarily native to India and is often used as a fiber in the textile industry. In addition, you can use it as a biofuel.
3. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Japanese maple is one of the most common specie that looks like a weed. It is a delicate plant that you can confuse for cannabis, especially in the spring when the leaves are still green. According to findings, its leaves bear the most striking resemblance with that of marijuana or weed.
It has blades that grow narrow at both ends and feature a similar five-edged classic weed leaf look. The only feature that differentiates them from weeds is that the Japanese maple foliage color changes to red in the summer.
However, despite its striking resemblance with weed, this specie doesn’t have similar attributes like benefits and challenges of growing weeds.
Japanese maple is a favorite plant of many gardeners and plant enthusiasts, thanks to its gorgeous looks, and medicinal uses to treat eye inflammation and liver problems, amongst others.
Again, its sap can serve as a sweetener in beverages and dishes, and some forms make perfect bonsai, which can sometimes be confused for cannabis bonsai trees.
4. Cassava (Manihot esculenta)
Cassava is one of the most common plants that look almost like a weed and is a popular root crop. The Manihot esculenta, as scientifically called, is a staple root crop in Asia, Mexico, Africa, and central/south America.
You can powder cassava to become starch and serves as a basic ingredient for making traditional cuisines.
However, it would be best not to eat it raw or without washing properly, as it could be poisonous. It is mostly planted for industrial consumption. The leaves of cassava are often confused for those of weeds since they possess five leaf natures, narrow and pointy leaves, and spread in bunches. The leaves are red alongside red stalks and smooth texture.
5. Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
You will hardly walk past the chaste tree without going back to take a closer look at it, as it looks almost like weed or cannabis.
Its leaves bear a striking resemblance to the leaves of cannabis. The leaves come in green color, and possess sharp ends, with about five to seven of them branching out from one stalk.
However, one feature that differentiates them is the serrated leaves and jagged texture that chaste tree leaves do not possess. But like weeds, chaste trees also serve several medicinal uses.
Several researchers recommend the traditional belief that chaste tree leaves could be dried and consumed as a tea to treat hormonal imbalances.
6. Texas Star (Hibiscus coccineus)
Without a closer look, you will mistake the Texas Star hibiscus to be weed. It features tiny branches growing alongside slender, pointy leaves, hanging from an upright, textured stem.
However, you can conclude just the leaf shape, because once it starts flowering, the difference will be very clear.
Meanwhile, over the years, the Texas star is increasingly living up to its name and hype once it starts producing attractive red star-shaped flowers.
Because of their stunning appearance, several homeowners grow them to add color to their space and to draw lovely pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds.
7. Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)
Okra plant is a popular plant that almost everyone is familiar with across the globe. It is a famous cooking recipe for the Asian, Indian, and most parts of the African continents. However, during its growing stage, you can easily mistake it for weed.
You can experiment by taking a picture of an okra garden, and you’ll almost certainly believe it to be a cannabis bed.
The most striking resemblance between okra plants and weed buds is that okra possesses more robust, rounder, and toothless leaves; hence you need to be careful around them.
On the other hand, cannabis possesses pointed leaves with slender margins that are very ragged.
8. Coral Plant (Jatropha multifida)
The coral plant is another plant that looks like a weed, as its leaflets have jagged, very toothed edges, even though some plants can possess straight edges. However, the leaves of coral plants are often larger than weed leaves and are made up of 10 leaflets.
Scientifically known as Jatropha multifida, the coral plant is a tropical specie you can often see growing in the wild in Central America and Mexico. Most homeowners grow it ornamentally, thanks to its stunning bunches of pink roses.
9. Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus)
The kenaf plant is a weed look-alike that features 5 leaflets, yet possesses 2 lower leaflets that are often joined to the upper leaflets and are a lot smaller in size.
However, it would look more like a weed during its early years, when the leaves are more slender and more pointed. It can sometimes have serrated leaves that are not often very clear.
The Hibiscus cannabinus can be used in making paper, fibrous rope, and twine, which is another reason it is compared to weed, alongside the similarity in the name (cannabinus).
Just like kenaf, weed is often known as hemp and is primarily used to make strong twine and rope, amongst others.
10. Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrine)
Despite its name, the Sweetfern may not be a real fern, but it comes from the bayberry family. It possesses leaves that are highly serrated almost like those of weed, and smell like weeds too.
However, the sweet fern is a lot bushier in nature than weeds, and the leaves grow in bunches.
Again, the Comptonnia peregrine is popularly planted as a fragrant herb and serves several medicinal purposes including being a mosquito repellent. It also possesses anti-itching features and is perfect when you grow them in your backyard in the ground or pots.
11. Cranberry Hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella)
Also known as the African rosemallow, the cranberry hibiscus features one of the most attractively colored leaves of all flowering plants. You can easily tell the similarity between this one from cannabis, due to its crimson red to burgundy color in the fall season.
Then, for the remaining parts of the year, you can identify it with its brownish-red stems and stalks.
The leaves of cranberry hibiscus almost look like okra leaves than weed leaves, but during its early age, it often features similar pointy and toothed leaves like that of the weed.
This specie is a perfect outdoor and container plant because of its stunning baby pink flowers and it is an edible plant that you can use in salads and other dishes to offer natural food color and earthy flavor.
12. Mint (Mentha spp.)
It is not easy to differentiate the mint herb and weed side by side, especially because it has toothed, pointy, and ovate tender leaves that look very similar to those of weed. It also shares the same flower buds with those of weeds.
Again, it possesses the same growth pattern as that of a weed, due to its bushy growth nature and leafy branches.
However, one unique feature of the mint specie is that they tend to stay stuck in the soil and can hardly be harvested. Unlike weeds that can grow in between vegetation, mint will not do well when planted close to other plants.
In its early stage, it comes in olive green color, has hairier stems and leaves, and features pellet-like, white blooms during the spring.
13. Wormwood (Mugwort spp.)
Wormwood is another plant that looks like a weed and often comes with resin-covered buds accompanying strains like Gorilla Glue seeds to the inexperienced eye.
Legends have it that the mugwort plant signifies luck and brings good luck, but be careful not to get the police instead, as they could mistake the plant for weed.
The wormwood plant is a giant plant that has short upright branches. It has leaves that come with a forest green color on the top and is covered in silver wooly hair at the underside.
Again, like weeds, this plant comes with several medicinal benefits and a strong earthy scent and can serve as an energy booster, treat digestive problems, menstrual strains, anxiety, etc.
14. Southern Marigold (Tagetes minuta)
While you can hardly see the resemblance between them from a very close angle, from a distance, you would certainly bet your money that what you are seeing is not southern marigold but a weed.
Also known as wild marigold or black mint, the Tagetes minuta specie belongs to the Asteraceae family.
Native to the southern region of South America, the southern marigold is a half-hardy annual that features pointed leaves with long, slender stems, giving the plants a resemblance to cannabis from a distance.
Also, the leaves reveal the difference the more you come closer to the plant, which becomes very visible.
This specie is first grown in Southern America before it spread to other parts of the world with the arrival of the Spanish.
The plant is called Wacatay or Huacatay in the Andes, and can often be seen as a bottled paste at the grocery stores around these parts since it traditionally serves as a culinary herb.
Meanwhile, the leaflets of a southern marigold are often small individual leaves joined to the stem; weeds leaflets all sprout from one leaf too. However, the little white flowers of this plant that bloom in October are not the same as the bulbous buds of weeds.
15. Oregano (Oreganum spp.)
Even though it is the last plant on our list, oregano is one of the plants that are most commonly mistaken for weed, thanks in large part to its smell, especially when dry.
Even though its leaves are mildly serrated, they are often larger than and not as obvious as those of weed.
Again, just like the mint plant, the oregano specie is a very beneficial herb you can grow in your garden, and can serve a variety of dish-making purposes. It is significantly used in making Mediterranean dishes and can serve medicinal purposes, like an antibacterial agent.
The major feature that makes people mistake certain plants for weeds lies in the leaves. In other words, once you see the leaves on the plants, it gets you into thinking they are cannabis or weeds.
For instance, the plants on our list above are good examples of plants that look like weeds, and the major look-alike feature is their leaves. However, there are so many similar plants out there, but the aforementioned are the most common ones.