Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by Kimberly Crawford
Experienced gardeners and enthusiasts would distinguish a weed from weed clones from a mile away but inexperienced ones would not so it is best to correct the confusion as early as now.
First let us clarify what we are talking about when we say weeds here. By weeds, we refer to cannabis, which by the way, when used in moderation is really a complete medicinal plant.
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It has potent biochemicals that treat cancer, inflammation, anesthetic and digestive problems. No wonder that the medical world has set its eyes on this plant for all the medicinal benefits that it could offer.
One way or another, you will find plants that look like weed but are not. To prevent that from ever happening, here are 15 of the most confused plants with weed.
Related: 16 Weeds That Look Like Grass
15 Plants that look like weed
If you ever see one of these plants one of these days, put into mind some characteristics that will define them from cannabis or weeds.
Mostly, it is the leaves that will confuse you but it will also the leaves that will give the difference away.
So make no mistake in identifying weeds with weed look-alikes because we will provide some basic descriptions that will tell you the difference.
1. Cassava (Manihot esculenta)
This weed lookalike is a widely known root crop. It is a staple root crop in Asia, Mexico, Africa and central/south America as it is powdered to become starch and is an ingredient in traditional cuisines.
It is, however, poisonous when eaten raw or when not thoroughly washed. It is also cultivated for industrial consumption.
Its leaves are quite mistaken for cannabis leaves because of its five-leaf habit, narrow and pointy leaves and spreading in bunches.
It is however, brighter green in color with red stalks and smooth texture. It is easy to identify the cassava from cannabis leaves, all in all.
2. Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
Walking past one will truly make you go back and look at it at a closer view because its leaves really look like cannabis leaves.
It is pointed, rich green in color, with five to seven of them branching out from a single stalk.
The only difference is that chaste tree leaves do not have serrated edges and a jagged texture.
Like cannabis, chaste trees also have medicinal purposes. Scientific researches back up the traditional belief that chaste tree leaves when dried to be drunk as tea could function as a natural remedy in balancing hormones.
This plant during its youth stage highly resembles cannabis leaves. It has the same long, narrow and pointy leaves and same green hue.
It also has a bit of a toothed edge on the leaves with five to six of them clumped in one stalk.
The similarity between cleome and weed stops there though. In its individuality, cleome is planted as an ornamental. It is unique for its red-purple, tentacle-like flowers that bloom from summer to the first frost.
It is beneficial for pollinator gardens because a lot of insects are attracted to it. It is also an edible plant in Asia and central America.
4. Coral Plant (Jatropha multifida)
Also known as Jatropha multifida, the leaves of the coral plant resembles the leaves of weeds.
It has the same jagged texture as cannabis leaves and has the narrow and pointed shape and size of cannabis too.
This one however, has more extended leaves and with cuts that make it look like swords with handles.
It is a tropical plant found extensively in Mexico and Central America. It is sold underground as marijuana or wild weed leaves to unknowing tourists.
It is however cultivated because its leaves are known to have therapeutic effects and its red flower bunch are attractive ornamentals.
5. Cranberry Hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella)
Also called as the African rosemallow, it has one of the most beautifully colored leaves among flowering plants.
You can easily identify this one from cannabis because of crimson red to burgundy color during fall.
For the rest of the year, it will be identified with its brownish-red stems and stalks. Its leaves are more like okra leaves than cannabis leaves but during its youth, it will have the same pointy and toothed leaves like the cannabis.
Aside from being an outdoor and container plant for its beautiful baby pink flowers, it is also edible, used in salads and other dishes as natural food color and earthy flavor.
6. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
This one is really one of the closest calls on being identified as weeds. While this plant is not edible like okra or mint, it is well loved in gardens because it provides an assortment of color to gardens all year long.
It is both grown in the outdoors or in containers. It gets its name as it is a native of Japan (but also in Korea and China).
Like weed leaves, Japanese maple leaves have heavily toothed edges and have five to six leaves on each stalk. The difference however, is that weed leaves are narrower and pointier.
During spring, both have a rich green color but Japanese maple leaves turn into brownish-green or totally brown during fall.
7. Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus)
During its growing phase, kenaf will look like weeds because of its buds, leaves and color.
It has the same serrated, pointy leaves, weed leaf texture and seven leaves in one stalk like the marijuana. But as it grows older, the difference will be more defined since kenaf leaves tend to broaden and will look like smaller okra leaves.
Cannabis and kenaf have similar chemical properties though so the similarity does not stop at maturity.
As a matter of fact, it is even called Hibiscus cannabinus. Like Sunn hemp, kenaf is also fibrous and is cultivated for the production of paper, twines, and ropes.
This herb is not as simple as you think. It is sometimes mistaken for weed because its young leaves are toothed, pointy and ovate like weed.
Its flower buds also look like weed buds. Mint also tends to have a similar growth pattern with that of weed thanks to its bushy growth habit and leafy branches.
What you need to understand about mints however, is that they remain stuck in the soil and are not easily uprooted.
It also does not appreciate being mixed with other plants compared to weeds that could grow in between vegetation.
Mint also has a more olive green color in its youth, have hairier stems and leaves and have pellet-like, white flowers in the spring.
9. Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)
We all know this international, slimy Indian/Asian veggie but did you know that it is commonly mistaken as weed?
As a matter of fact, taking an aerial shot of an okra garden would make you think that your garden bed looks like a bed of weeds.
Once in Cartersville, Georgia, a man’s house was tipped to be growing weeds only to find out that all he has is an okra garden.
This is because of the uncanny resemblance of okra buds to cannabis buds. Watch out for the leaves though because okra leaves are wider, rounder and not toothed. Weed leaves are heavily jagged on the edges, narrow and pointy.
Not only does oregano somewhat look like weed at first glance, some people also claim that this herb also smells like cannabis.
It has the same edgy texture like weeds, mildly serrated leaves and paler in color than cannabis.
As an herb, it does more than just making the food taste better and more aromatic. It is part of the mint family and the oregano is a known medicinal plant.
For one, it is considered as an antibacterial agent and has the ability to lower blood pressure. It is also rich in antioxidants and fiber, among others. Most times you find it in pizza and pasta dishes.
11. Scarlet Hibiscus (Scarlet rosemallow,
It is also called the wild red mallow or crimson red mallow. Its leaves look a lot like cannabis leaves because they are long, narrow, pointy and with fine teeth on its edges.
They also have the same three to four clumps of leaves in one stalk and a rich green color. For curious onlookers with no previous encounters with cannabis, the identification mistake could be made.
As soon as it blooms its crimson red hibiscus flowers or loses its leaves as it grows dormant from late fall to winter, you will find out that it is not cannabis at all. It is easy to grow and thrives as long as there is a well-draining soil. Its flowers are loved by hummingbirds.
12. Sunn Hemp (Crotalaria juncea)
This one is a multi-functional plant. Like weeds, it has tall stalks, long, slender branches and bushy, toothed and narrow leaves all over.
Its leaf buds also have the same size, shape and appearance to that of weed buds. This one is not the same as industrial hemp though.
It is native to India and is also fondly called as madras hemp or Indian hemp. This one is cultivated widely because of the quality fiber that it produces.
It assumes a key role not only in the textiles industry but also in the production of biofuel.
13. Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina)
First of all, sweet ferns are not ferns at all. They are actually deciduous shrubs which are commonly mistaken for as weeds at first glance.
They have the same delicate fern leaves but in cannabis, pointy but alternating looks. Its leaves tend to grow in bunches on a single stem bit as it matures, it spreads out and gets bushy like weeds.
When rubbed, it also smells like weeds so people truly get confused if it is a smokable pot or not. Although that is the case, this plant is legal to plant. It is also medically functional as it is used as mosquito repellant, anti-itch and as medical inhalant.
14. Tagetes Minuta
It is also known as Muster John Henry and is called as minuta because it only grows to up to 1.2m in height.
It is mistaken for the cannabis because of its long, narrow, pointed and finely serrated leaves.
At first glance, it looks like young cannabis leaves. It is also aromatic but instead of smelling like pot leaves, the odor is more like licorice smell.
You will identify this plant apart from cannabis when it starts blooming yellow flowers in the spring.
It is native to South America and although it is considered as an invasive plant, it is still cultivated because of its medicinal properties and its ability in controlling bacteria, fungi and roundworm buildup in the soil.
15. Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)
Its long, slender, textured and bright green leaves practically look like cannabis but it lacks the spiky, toothed edges of weeds. But with its multi-branched leaves, star-like leaves, one would need a second look to confirm that this is not cannabis.
This resemblance stops when this plant reaches maturity and blooms crimson red or creamy white flowers.
It is named as such because its native location is Texas and its leaves are star-shaped.
As a perennial plant, it blooms attractive flowers from July to October. It is a versatile and hardy plant and is truly a good addition to gardens.
Read also: Types of clovers
When it comes to cannabis or weed look-alikes, the main category of resemblance is on the leaves.
These are just fifteen of the plants that look like weeds but aren’t but to tell you frankly, there are a lot more out there.
Some plants not only look like weeds but also smell like them so it might be harder to pinpoint which is which. But then again, there will always be some salient characteristics that will show you their difference.
Hence, cannabis or weeds is a rather unique plant than most of us would acknowledge. It has its own definite properties, distinct characteristics and habits that make it stand out from its look-alikes.
There are more to weeds than what meets the eye and as the medical world locks eyes on cannabis for its ingenious medicinal property, more interesting information will surface for this plant.