Pay attention that growing marijuana may be subject to special restrictions and regulation in your country or state. Please contact your attorney to obtain advice before cultivating cannabis.
Plants that look like weeds are deceiving by their looks. Imagine getting a short stroll in a natural park and stumbling upon seven-pointed leaves: marijuana! Our dearest friend–spoiler alert–it is not. The resemblance of the leaves does not always mean it is already a stash plant, which we can let slide this time, as it is a common mistake for anybody that is unfamiliar with the taxonomy and morphology of real cannabis. However, even if you are not an experienced naturalist, you can rely on the unmistakable features of this hallucinogenic plant. A keen eye is key to observing a few nuances in its morphology! So, grab your pen and notebook, and we’ll help you distinguish what plants look like weed from actual cannabis!
The Importance of Identifying Real Cannabis Plant
It is crucial to correctly differentiate a plant that looks like weed from the real one for the following reasons:
- Prevent misleading reports – What if you spotted your neighbor growing plants with leaves that look like weed? The last thing you want to do is, of course, tipping the authorities with false information! Any confusion and misunderstandings between both parties are less likely to happen with accurate identification.
- Detect fraudulent sales – Being a cannabis dealer needs to have a keen eye on detecting what’s not marijuana vs. the true one. You will save some money’s worth of what could be a mary jane swindling.
- Avoid consuming toxic plants – If losing big sums of financial resources is not your concern, at least staying safe and avoiding getting toxified must be your top priority. Some plants, when smoked, may produce harmful fumes that can render someone in a wheeled ambulance stretcher.
- Design a weed-inspired landscape – As previously mentioned, you could be the neighbor who is fond of growing a fancy 7 leaf plants garden. The possibilities are limitless: you can enjoy it yourself or throw a garden summer party!
How to Distinguish Between Real Weeds and Ones that Look Alike?
While plants that look like weeds have close similarities with pot plants, you can correctly identify a true cannabis by ticking a few of the following characteristics:
- Light to deep green, similar to pine trees, lighter on the underside.
- Typically 7-pointed, but can vary from 3-13 depending on age, nutrition, and species: C. sativa have narrower fingers while C. indica is broader.
- Serrated leaf margins, each dent having a central vein extending to its tip
- Leaves attached in an opposite or alternating manner on the stem.
- Pungent smell with a hint of mint aroma when mature.
- Skunky odor and sometimes described as odoriferous as cat pee.
- Appear on stem, buds, and leaves.
- White and velvety.
- Glisten-like crystals on the buds and mature leaves.
- Immature plants are yet to develop trichomes.
- Light green to yellow.
- Pistil is filamentous, red-orange to reddish brown, sometimes white, arising from the flowers.
- Dense and sticky.
- Born in a cluster on top or at the upper leaf nodes.
Plant Size and Habit
- 3-10 feet (1-3 m).
- Erect, pyramidal, or bushy.
- Herbaceous or non-woody stem surface.
Plants that Look Like Weeds
With rare plants, botanists sometimes commit mistakes, but not with plants that look like marijuanas; if you know a few of them, misleading situations can be avoided.
Here are some flowers that often have similar leaf morphology and flowers:
- Spider Plant – A member of the caper family, this uni- or bicolored flower species has 5-6 pointing leaves, pretty much identical to pot. But before reporting a false claim to the police, you simply need to look at its flowers which appear pink, rose, purple, and white: more showy and elaborate than an actual weed.
- Coral Plant – Native to the Americas and the Caribbean, the coral plant is a striking garden ornamental plant that looks like cannabis. It also has lobed leaves reminiscent of marijuana’s leaf contour. However, the serrations on the leaf margins are more non-uniformly protruding on the leaflets, while the flowers are coralline–definitely not your weed!
- Cranberry Hibiscus – This edible ruby shrub, relative to the mallow family, is often used to make tea or salads. The deep-purple leaves also take a characteristic cannabis shape, mistakably identifying it as such. While the foliage has the same shape, even a 5th grader can tell it is definitely not marijuana just by looking at its color.
- Scarlet Hibiscus – Another member that hails from the mallow family is the scarlet hibiscus, producing striking and flamboyant flowers. Like cannabis, the leaves are palmate and finger-like, having 3-7 leaflets with serrations along the margins. To differentiate it, simply look at the serrations and the girth of the lobes, which are irregularly spaced and narrow compared to the true weeds.
- Sunn Hemp – Also known as Indian or madras hemp, this plant is widely used to feed livestock or to rehabilitate poor soils. Their yellow flowers, when unopened, may give a similar impression to the stash plant. But later, at the flowering stage, elongated pods emerge, which are absent in cannabis. In addition, the simple leaves will definitely make you cross this pretentious plant that looks like marijuana out of your list.
Some herbs have similar aromas or terpene patterns which makes them similar to hemp.
- Oregano – A favorite kitchen spice, oregano is often mistaken to be marijuana, not because of its leaves but because of its smell. While you can tell what plant looks like weed but isn’t by the foliage, it is indistinguishable from your real joint when dried. Your skill and experience will tell you to perceive the subtle difference!
- Mint – Utilized in various culinary, medicine, and cosmetic industries, this versatile sweet-smelling herb also makes it to the list of weed-looking plants. Its ragged leaf margins may be misidentified by someone. Thankfully, the size and the simple leaves would tell you that it is not.
- Mugwort – Hailing from the family of daisies, mugworts are common garden plants with aromatic leaves and stunning flowers. The lobed, pine-green foliage is studded with silverish micro-hairs, which can fool anyone at first glance. If you scrutinize it closely, the leaflet points are distinctive from that of marijuana, and the smell has a slight variation.
- Rosemary – Rosemaries are Mediterranean herbs that are widely used in cooking and extracting essential oils for other purposes. Although no one can get deceived by its leaf shape, the desiccated form might be less detectable. Meticulously wafting the smell would be enough if you have smelled a true cola before.
Don't get confused with these woody plants that look like pot, even with their lobed leaves!
- Japanese Maple Tree – With the Japanese maple tree's exquisite leaves, no wonder this medium-sized ornamental tree is among the home gardener's favorites. The 5-6 fingered foliage can easily confuse anyone not so well-versed with plant anatomy. However, the leaf lobes are united at the base, contrastingly opposite from marijuana, which has separated leaflets.
- Chaste Tree – A poplar tree-shrub used in alternative medicine, the purple flowering chaste tree is often misidentified as cannabis. Like your favorite weed, its compound leaves split into 5-7 leaflets reminiscent of your five hand digits. But, if you have a closer look, the surface is not as glossy as marijuana's and without ridges on the margins.
- Money Tree – The money tree produces stellar-shaped leaves, which makes it a stunning tropical plant indoors that joins the list of what plant looks like weed. The leaves are glossy and take the common leaf shape of cannabis. However, before jumping to conclusions, have a quick look at its woody stem and impeccably smooth leaf margins, which is not morphological feature of true hemp.
- Horse Chestnut – Native to Europe's Balkan region and introduced in the US, the horse chestnut is a popular shade tree but is highly toxic when ingested. Unlike the true, edible chestnuts, this has compound leaves arranged in fan-like patterns similar to stash. The plant canopy, size, and stem would hint that it is not marijuana.
Some herbaceous and woody shrubs share similar characteristics with cannabis but shouldn’t be deceptive:
- Cassava – Unknown to many, cassava is a root crop cultivated in poor soils in the tropics and semi-arid regions. It has leaves that look like pot leaves at first glance, with 5-6 flaps. To differentiate it from marijuana, the petioles are reddish; the stems are woody and brown and will have foliage scars (protrusions of the stem where the petioles are attached) as it gets older.
- Kenaf – Hailing from tropical Asia and Africa, kenaf is an industrial crop prized for its sturdy fiber. At its vegetative stage, the compound leaves grow and split into 5-6 extensions. However, as it matures, it produces a showy flower similar to the common hibiscus, in contrast to the inconspicuous flowers of cannabis. Also, the notches on the leaf edges are not equally spaced, unlike marijuana.
- Okra – Also known as the lady finger vegetable, okra has another finger: they’re on the leaves! If you are not familiar with this exotic veggie, the quintuple-lobed leaves are often misidentified as a pot plant. To not fall into this trap, observe the leaves closely–the leaflets are fused at the base, and the flowers are, beyond a doubt, similar to cannabis.
- Sweet Fern – Sweet fern is not actually a true fern that bears no flowers but is from the Bayberry family. It is one of the plants that look like weed for its saw-toothed leaf margins. But, instead of misidentifying this bushy plant, have a look first at how the leaves are latched on the stem, appearing densely packed. Also, the snaggy appearance of the leaf edges is very distinct.
What Hibiscus Looks Like Weed?
Two hibiscus species, cranberry and scarlet hibiscus, are included in the list of plants that resemble weeds due to the finger-shaped foliage. However, it can be differentiated by the color and, of course, the characteristics of inflorescence.
What Weed Plant Looks Like a Fern?
Sweet fern, though not a true fern, is likely one of the closest weed plants that look like a fern. But they have a woody stem and blunt dentations on the margins, which is not a characteristic of a weed.