Unveiling the Mystery: Plants that Resemble Weed

Have you ever been strolling through a natural park and been taken aback by the sight of seven-pointed leaves? Your first thought might have been, “Marijuana!” But hold your horses, my dear friend, because appearances can be deceiving. Just because a plant has leaves that resemble weed doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the real deal. This is a common mistake made by those unfamiliar with the taxonomy and morphology of cannabis. Fear not, for we are here to help you distinguish between plants that look like weed and the actual cannabis plant. So grab your pen and notebook, and let’s embark on this botanical adventure together!

Cannabis Plant in Hands

The Importance of Accurate Identification

Differentiating between a plant that looks like weed and the real thing is crucial for several reasons:

  • Prevent misleading reports: Imagine if you spotted your neighbor growing plants that resemble weed. The last thing you want to do is mistakenly report them to the authorities. Accurate identification can help avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

  • Detect fraudulent sales: For cannabis dealers, being able to spot what’s not marijuana is essential. It can save you from being swindled by those trying to pass off something else as the real deal.

  • Avoid consuming toxic plants: If you’re not concerned about losing money, at least prioritize your safety. Some plants, when smoked, can produce harmful fumes that can land you in an ambulance.

  • Design a weed-inspired landscape: Perhaps you’re the neighbor who wants to create a garden adorned with fancy 7-leaf plants. The possibilities are endless – you can enjoy it yourself or throw a garden summer party!

Identifying Cannabis Plant

How to Distinguish Between Real Weeds and Look-Alike Plants?

While plants that resemble weeds may have close similarities to cannabis, there are several characteristics you can look for to identify the real deal:

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  • Light to deep green color, similar to pine trees, with a lighter underside.
  • Typically 7-pointed, but can vary from 3 to 13 depending on age, nutrition, and species. Cannabis sativa has narrower fingers, while Cannabis indica is broader.
  • Serrated leaf margins with a central vein extending to the tip of each dent.
  • Leaves attached in an opposite or alternating manner on the stem.


  • Pungent smell with a hint of mint aroma when mature.
  • Skunky odor, sometimes described as cat pee.


  • Visible on the stem, buds, and leaves.
  • White and velvety in appearance.
  • Glisten-like crystals on the buds and mature leaves.
  • Immature plants have yet to develop trichomes.


  • Light green to yellow in color.
  • Pistil is filamentous, ranging from red-orange to reddish brown, sometimes white, arising from the flowers.
  • Dense and sticky.
  • Bell-shaped.
  • Born in clusters on top or at the upper leaf nodes.

Plant Size and Habit

  • Height ranging from 3 to 10 feet (1-3 m).
  • Plants can be erect, pyramidal, or bushy in shape.
  • Herbaceous or non-woody stem surface.

Potted Cannabis Plant Indoors

The Look-Alikes: Plants that Resemble Weeds

Even experienced botanists can sometimes make mistakes with rare plants. However, when it comes to plants that resemble marijuana, there are a few that can often be mistaken for the real deal. Let’s take a closer look at some of them:


  • Spider Plant: This caper family member has uni- or bicolored flowers with 5-6 pointing leaves similar to pot plants. However, a quick look at its showy and elaborate pink, rose, purple, or white flowers will reveal its true identity.

  • Coral Plant: With lobed leaves reminiscent of marijuana, this striking garden ornamental plant might fool you at first glance. However, the non-uniform protruding serrations on the leaf margins and the coralline flowers make it distinct from weed.

  • Cranberry Hibiscus: This edible ruby shrub, part of the mallow family, has deep-purple leaves that resemble cannabis. However, its color sets it apart, making it unmistakably different from marijuana.

  • Scarlet Hibiscus: Another member of the mallow family, this plant produces striking and flamboyant flowers. Its palmate and finger-like leaves with serrations along the margins might confuse you, but the irregularly spaced and narrow lobes distinguish it from true weed.

  • Sunn Hemp: Also known as Indian or madras hemp, this plant is often mistaken for cannabis when its yellow flowers are unopened. However, the flowering stage reveals elongated pods absent in marijuana. The simple leaves also differ, leading us to exclude this pretentious plant from the list.

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Coral Plant with New Inflorescence


  • Oregano: This favorite kitchen spice is often mistaken for marijuana, not because of its leaves, but because of its smell. When dried, the smell can be indistinguishable from your real joint. Experience and skill are required to perceive the subtle difference.

  • Mint: Used in various industries, this sweet-smelling herb sometimes gets misidentified due to its ragged leaf margins. However, its size and simple leaves distinguish it from cannabis.

  • Mugwort: Commonly found in gardens, mugworts have aromatic leaves and stunning flowers. While the lobed, pine-green foliage can be mistaken for marijuana at first glance, closer inspection reveals distinctive leaflet points and a slightly different smell.

  • Rosemary: Widely used in cooking and essential oil extraction, rosemary has distinct leaves that are unlikely to fool anyone. However, its desiccated form might be less detectable. A keen sense of smell will help you differentiate it from a true cola.

Oregano's Leaves


Don’t let the lobed leaves of these woody plants trick you into thinking they’re pot!

  • Japanese Maple Tree: With its exquisite leaves, this medium-sized ornamental tree can easily confuse those not well-versed in plant anatomy. However, the united leaf lobes and separated leaflets distinguish it from marijuana.

  • Chaste Tree: This purple flowering tree-shrub used in alternative medicine often gets misidentified as cannabis. While its compound leaves split into 5-7 leaflets, the lack of glossiness and ridges on the margins set it apart.

  • Money Tree: Known for its stellar-shaped leaves, this stunning tropical plant often joins the list of what looks like weed. However, closer inspection reveals its woody stem and smooth leaf margins, features not found in true hemp.

  • Horse Chestnut: This popular shade tree, native to Europe, has compound leaves arranged in fan-like patterns similar to marijuana. However, the plant canopy, size, and stem characteristics help differentiate it from weed.

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Chaste Tree Leaves and Flowers

Leaf Plants

Some herbaceous and woody shrubs may share similar characteristics with cannabis, but they shouldn’t be deceptive.

  • Cassava: Cultivated in poor soils, cassava has leaves similar to pot leaves at first glance. However, the reddish petioles, woody and brown stems, and foliage scars as it ages set it apart from marijuana.

  • Kenaf: An industrial crop prized for its fiber, kenaf has compound leaves that split into 5-6 extensions in its vegetative stage. As it matures, it produces showy flowers similar to common hibiscus. The unequal spacing of notches on the leaf edges distinguishes it from marijuana.

  • Okra: Also known as ladyfinger vegetable, okra has quintuple-lobed leaves often misidentified as pot leaves. However, closer observation reveals fused leaflets at the base and flowers that are unmistakably different from cannabis.

  • Sweet Fern: Although not a true fern, sweet fern is often mistaken for weed due to its saw-toothed leaf margins. However, its densely-packed appearance and distinct snaggy leaf edges set it apart from marijuana.

Cassava Leaves


What Hibiscus Resembles Weed?

Cranberry and scarlet hibiscus are two hibiscus species that resemble weed due to their finger-shaped foliage. However, their color and characteristics of inflorescence help differentiate them from cannabis.

What Weed Plant Looks Like a Fern?

Sweet fern, although not a true fern, closely resembles marijuana. However, its woody stem and blunt dentations on the margins are characteristics that set it apart from weed.