Have you ever wandered down the street or driven along a country road and stopped short because you just saw a bunch of plants that look like cannabis growing right in plain view? While this sight is likely to get more and more common as home cultivation laws continue to advance, up to a few years ago, a sight like this would make most people pull up for a closer look.
It’s certainly possible you have discovered someone’s private marijuana garden, but unless you live in one of the states where cultivation is legal, it’s more likely you simply saw plants that look like marijuana. Even in states where you can grow your own natural medicine, certified patients and recreational gardeners are often required to have their plants properly concealed from prying eyes, and even locked uptight.
So, if you didn’t just discover a secret grow op in the middle of your suburb, what did you find? Here are some plant species that are sometimes mistaken for marijuana:
Plants That Could Be Mistaken for Cannabis
From a distance or at a quick glance, the leaves of the cassava plant – a shrub with an edible root you might know as yuca – resemble the marijuana plant. Like the others in this list, the leaves feature leaflets that radiate out from a single point; that combined with their bright green color make initial misidentification easy.
Cassava leaves often have seven leaflets that are about as wide as indica strains, but more widely spaced, so they, like the Coral Plant, can stretch most of the way around the center.
There are many varieties of hibiscus, but some of them have leaves with the same leaflet as marijuana. The Red Leaf Hibiscus leaves look something like a mix between red maple leaves and cannabis, and Rose Mallow leaves have wide-spread leaflets similar to hemp or sativa strains, though they often have only a few sections, and these sections can be scalloped along the edges, rather than serrated like cannabis.
A plant also known as Hibiscus cannabinus or Deccan hemp, Kenaf is in fact not related the marijuana beyond the monophyletic group Rosid, despite the similarities in the leaves and the fact that it is harvested for the fibers of its stalks, just like cannabis hemp. The leaves faintly resemble indica strains of marijuana – wide leaflets that spread from the center, but the plants tend to have only three large leaflets with smaller leaflets on the edges.
Where cannabis plants grown for industrial hemp tend to reach between 2 and 4 meters in height, the kenaf plant, which looks kind of like bamboo stalks, averages 5.5 meters, providing considerable harvest potential.
The Coral Plant develops beautiful flowers that look strikingly similar to a cluster you might find in a fish tank or reef, but before they flower, these evergreen shrubs look rather like a different being entirely: cannabis!
While the plant isn’t exactly a dead ringer for marijuana, the leaves do have many leaflets that stem from a central point, much like cannabis leaves. Unlike cannabis, however, Coral Plant leaflets can extend in almost a complete circle around the central point, and often have split tips.
When It Really is Weed:
Read What States Let You Grow Marijuana?
Spider Flower Plant
Spider Flower (Cleome) leaves can look quite a lot like indica cannabis leaves. They have the same wide leaflets that grow smaller as they near the stem, and the same prominent veins on each leaflet. Despite a comparable outdoor height of up to 5 feet, once Spider Flower plants begin flowering, it’s pretty hard to imagine anyone mistaking the bold white or purple bursts as marijuana!
This cute little plant – which is actually a deciduous shrub, not a fern – is native to North America and doesn’t look anything at all like cannabis. It’s been added to this list, however, because it’s reported to smell a lot like everyone’s favorite smokeable herb. Sweetfern leaves – long bumpy strands that stretch out from the central branch – are used as tea, and the small burrs that grow among the leaves contain edible “nutlets”.
Like Sweetfern, Skunk Cabbage doesn’t look like cannabis and isn’t actually a cabbage, but it made this list because the skunky smell it emits can be mistaken for marijuana. This interesting-looking plant develops a large calla lily-like flower and is grown as an ornamental plant. Its roots are used as a laxative by bears after they awake from hibernation, and the leaves were traditionally used to alleviate swelling and to wrap fish for baking.
Also called brown hemp or Indian hemp, Sunn hemp is also of the rosid class, and can reach over 30 feet in height. Despite its name and industrial uses, Sunn hemp doesn’t really look that much like marijuana. Some illicit growers talk about using this plant as cover for their cannabis crops, though choosing something that could be mistaken as marijuana seems a strange choice of “disguise”.
What’s your favorite cannabis copycat?
If a look-alike just won’t cut it, try one of these fantastic – and authentic – cannabis seed strains from Growers Choice:
- American Haze feminized cannabis seeds
- Blueberry Auto-Flowering feminized cannabis seeds
- Cheese Auto-Flowering feminized cannabis seeds