Weeds That Resemble Tomato Plants: Identifying and Understanding

Have you ever encountered plants in your garden that closely resemble tomato plants? We all dream of cultivating our own perfect tomatoes – firm, juicy, flavorful, and blemish-free. However, there are weeds that can easily be mistaken for tomato plants if you’re not familiar with their distinct characteristics. In this article, we will explore some fascinating examples of weeds that resemble tomato plants and learn how to identify them. So, let’s dive in!

Plants That Resemble Tomato Plants

Growing tomatoes is a popular pursuit for vegetable gardeners. The quest for the perfect tomato is a constant endeavor. However, amidst the tomato plants, there are other plants that can be confused with them. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples.

Thyme: A Tomato Companion

If you have encountered yellow-striped armyworms in your garden, you might have noticed thyme (Thymus vulgaris) growing nearby. Research has shown that interplanting tomatoes with thyme or basil can significantly reduce the presence of adult armyworms by up to 50%. Thyme not only acts as a beautiful live mulch for tomato plants but also serves as a natural deterrent for pests.

Basil: Essential Tomato Companion

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is not only a delightful addition to various dishes but also an essential companion plant for tomatoes. Contrary to conventional companion planting theories, the scent of basil does not deter pests. However, it has been shown that basil helps control thrips and tomato hornworms. So, next time you spot tomato-looking plants with thorns, there’s a good chance it could be basil!

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Weeds That Resemble Tomato Plants

Weeds can sometimes be a gardener’s nightmare, competing with precious plants for resources. When it comes to tomatoes, it’s crucial to be able to distinguish between actual tomato plants and weeds that resemble them. Here are some intriguing examples:

1. Black Nightshade (Solanum Ptycanthum)

Black nightshade

Black nightshade belongs to the Solanum genus and is often found in open regions. It has deeply plucked leaves and tiny white flowers. While it might look like a tomato plant, it is essential to note that black nightshade has a bitter flavor and is not suitable for consumption. This weed can be found in various regions, including the West Coast, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri.

2. Horse Nettle

Horse nettle

Horse nettle is a plant that closely resembles tiny tomatoes. It has spiky leaves and produces small, yellow fruits that look like cherry tomatoes. However, consuming any part of this plant can be lethal. Horse nettle is a natural perennial found in many regions globally, including the United States.

3. Persimmon

Persimmon plants

Persimmons are widely produced fruits, known for their delicious taste. The persimmon tree, belonging to the family Ebenaceae, originated in China and Japan but has spread worldwide. While it may resemble tomato plants at first glance, persimmons have their own unique qualities and flavors.

4. Solanum Pimpinellifolium

Solanum Pimpinellifolium

Solanum pimpinellifolium, also known as the wild tomato or the currant tomato, is a wild tomato species native to Ecuador and Peru. It has spread to other regions, including the Galápagos Islands. While it may look like a tomato plant, it is essential to note that Solanum pimpinellifolium is a wild relative and not a domesticated tomato plant.

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5. Lycium Carolinianum (Carolina Wolfberry)

Lycium Carolinianum

Carolina wolfberry, also known as Lycium Carolinianum, is a poisonous perennial plant with prickly leaves. Its fruits resemble tiny yellow tomatoes. While they may look tempting, it’s crucial to avoid consuming them as the plant contains lethal compounds. Carolina wolfberry belongs to the nightshade family, just like tomatoes.

How to Identify Garden Weeds That Resemble Tomato Plants

Identifying weeds that look like tomato plants can be challenging but crucial for maintaining a healthy garden. Here are some tips to help you distinguish between the two:

  1. Take note of distinct characteristics: Pay attention to leaf shape, fruit color, and any unique features that differentiate weeds from actual tomato plants.
  2. Research and consult: Utilize reliable resources, such as gardening books or online guides, to identify specific weeds in your region.
  3. Observe growth patterns: Weeds often exhibit more aggressive growth than cultivated plants. Keep an eye out for rapid proliferation and invasive tendencies.
  4. Ask for expert advice: If you’re uncertain about a particular plant, consult with local gardening experts or horticulturists who specialize in weed identification. They can provide valuable insights based on their expertise.

By familiarizing yourself with the distinct characteristics of both tomato plants and weeds that resemble them, you can ensure a healthier and more productive garden.


Weeds can be a challenge to manage in any garden, and those that closely resemble tomato plants can cause confusion. It’s essential to identify and understand these weeds to prevent them from competing with your cherished tomato plants. By recognizing their unique characteristics and using proper weed management techniques, you can optimize the growth and yield of your tomato plants. Remember, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to managing weeds in your garden!

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For more gardening tips and information, visit the Ames Farm Center.