Don’t Be Fooled! Flowering Plants That Resemble Weed and How to Tell the Difference

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 taking a short walk in a natural park and coming across seven-pointed leaves that look like marijuana. Our dear friend, let us tell you, it’s not marijuana. It’s not always true that a plant’s leaves look like those on a stash plant. This is an example of a common mistake made by people who don’t know much about the taxonomy and morphology of real cannabis. But even if you aren’t a naturalist, you can tell this hallucinogenic plant from other plants because of how it looks. You need to have a sharp eye to notice some subtle differences in its shape. So, get a pen and paper, and we’ll help you tell the difference between plants that look like weed and real cannabis!

As an avid gardener and nature lover I’m always impressed by the wide variety of plant shapes colors, and textures out there. But it can also be confusing when some non-marijuana plants closely resemble weed!

Their leaves or flowers may look suspiciously similar to cannabis at first glance. But upon closer inspection distinct differences emerge.

In this article, I’ll cover common flowering plants that resemble marijuana and share tips for properly identifying them. Knowing these weed look-alikes helps avoid false alarms and makes you a more informed botanist. Let’s dig in!

Why It Matters to Correctly Identify Flowering Doppelgangers

There are a few key reasons it’s important to correctly distinguish flowers that look like weed from the real deal:

  • Prevent falsely accusing innocent gardeners of growing pot! That’s awkward.

  • Stop accidental ingestion of toxic plants. Some weed mimics are poisonous if smoked or eaten.

  • Avoid getting ripped off by unscrupulous dealers passing off fakes.

  • Learn interesting plant science and become a better botanist in the process!

So take your time and observe plant traits closely. A few subtle differences separate fascinating weed doppelgangers from illegal cannabis.

Flowers Frequently Mistaken for Marijuana

Here are some of the most common flowering plants that get mistaken for being marijuana:

Japanese Maple

This wildly popular ornamental tree has leaves uncannily similar to pot. The iconic five-fingered leaf with serrated edges could fool anyone. But the leaves connect at the base rather than growing separately on branching stems. And the brilliant red fall foliage is a dead giveaway it’s not weed!


Also called spider flower, cleome has five-parted leaves and spidery purple flowers. The palmate leaves may look cannabis-like at a quick glance. But cleome leaves lack the characteristic fan leaves’ spiky double serrations along the edges. And the showy flowers are a sure sign it’s not pot.


Aptly named, this shrub gives off a sweet, pungent aroma resembling marijuana. Its fern-like leaves have enough resemblance to cause double-takes. But sweetfern leaves lack the pointed tips and evenly spaced saw-toothed edges that would confirm cannabis.

Scarlet Hibiscus

In tropical climates, scarlet hibiscus hedges are sometimes reported as cannabis. While the leaves look tantalizingly similar, hibiscus leaves connect at the base rather than separately attaching to branches. And those huge, flamboyant red flowers are unmistakable proof it’s not weed.

Ditch Stonecrop

Also called ditch weed, this common perennial groundcover found in ditches and wetlands looks disconcertingly like pot. The leaf shape and branching structure are a close match. But the tiny yellow flowers are a far cry from Cannabis flowers. And crush a leaf to smell an acrid, sulfuric odor – nothing like marijuana’s aroma.


This fiber crop plant has leaves incredibly similar to pot right down to the serrated, finger-like shape. But Kenaf leaves lack the symmetrical spacing between serrations that cannabis displays. And the stems are more woody than soft, pliable pot stems. Kenaf’s showy cream and maroon flower sprays confirm it’s not your typical weed.

By carefully comparing these plants’ key traits to cannabis, the differences become clear. With time and experience, you’ll be able to instantly spot these common doppelgangers.

Handy Tips for Identifying True Marijuana Plants

To complete your flowering plant identification education, here are tips for positively identifying true Cannabis plants:

  • Symmetrically lobed, palm-shaped leaves with 7-13 serrated points

  • Alternating leaf arrangement growing directly on branches

  • Faint minty or skunky aroma

  • Covered in tiny, glistening trichomes making leaves feel sticky

  • Bushy growth with dense foliage

  • Clusters of small flowers at stem tips

  • Distinct, pistil-bearing female flowers versus pollen-laden male flowers

Keep these cannabis plant cues in mind as you patrol gardens and parks. You’ll become an expert at spotting the real deal versus wannabe weed imposters trying to cause mix-ups!

Turn Plant Confusion into Fascination and Learning

It’s easy to be fooled by flowering plants that look uncannily like pot upon first glance. But resist the instinct to make knee-jerk assumptions. Instead, think of these encounters as opportunities to sharpen your plant identification skills.

Compare structures, aromas, textures, and other traits to detectives clues. The more you enrich your knowledge of botany, the faster you’ll solve the mystery and correctly classify specimens.

So explore the plant kingdom with openness and curiosity. Let those supposed marijuana sightings be doorways to discovering new species and phenomena that fascinate you. With practice, you’ll get better and better at separating fabulous flowering plants from forbidden Cannabis.

Plants that Look Like Weeds

Botanists sometimes get rare plants wrong, but not with plants that look like marijuana. If you know a few of these, you can avoid being misled.

Here are some flowers that often have similar leaf morphology and flowers:

  • Spider Plant: This plant is in the caper family and has one or two-colored flowers. Its leaves are pointing and look a lot like pot plants. But before calling the police on a false claim, all you have to do is look at its flowers, which are pink, rose, purple, and white. They are more showy and complicated than a real weed.
  • Coral Plant—The coral plant is a beautiful garden ornamental plant that looks like cannabis. It comes from the Americas and the Caribbean. It also has lobed leaves reminiscent of marijuana’s leaf contour. But the serrations on the leaf edges stick out more unevenly on the leaflets, and the flowers are coralline—this is not your weed!
  • Cranberry Hibiscus: This red shrub is edible and is related to the mallow family. It is often used to make tea or salads. The deep purple leaves also have the shape of cannabis, which makes it easy to mistake for that plant. There is a similar shape to the leaves, but even a fifth-grader can tell it is not marijuana by the color.
  • Scarlet Hibiscus: The scarlet hibiscus is another plant in the mallow family that has bright, showy flowers. Like cannabis, the leaves are palmate and finger-shaped, with three to seven leaflets that are serrated along the edges. To tell it apart from real weeds, just look at the serrations and the girth of the lobes. The lobes are irregularly spaced and narrow compared to the real weeds.
  • Sunn Hemp: This plant is often used to feed animals or fix up bad soils. It is also called Indian or madras hemp. When their yellow flowers aren’t open, they might look like stash plants. But later, during the flowering stage, long pods appear, which cannabis does not have. You can also cross this pretentious plant that looks like marijuana off your list because of its simple leaves.

flower plant that looks like weed

Some herbs have similar aromas or terpene patterns which makes them similar to hemp.

  • Most of the time, people think that oregano is marijuana, not because of its leaves but because of the way it smells. The leaves can tell you which plant isn’t really weed, but when it’s dry, it’s impossible to tell the difference. With your skill and experience, you’ll be able to tell the difference!
  • Mint is a sweet-smelling herb that is used in many food, medicine, and beauty products. It is also on the list of plants that look like weeds. Its ragged leaf margins may be misidentified by someone. Thank goodness, the small size and simple leaves show that it’s not
  • Muggwort: Muggworts are common garden plants with fragrant leaves and beautiful flowers. They are related to daisies. The lobed, pine-green leaves are covered in tiny silvery hairs that can fool anyone at first glance. If you look closely, the leaflet points are different from marijuana’s, and the smell is a little different too.
  • Rosemary: Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb that is used in cooking and for other things to get essential oils. The shape of its leaves is easy to spot, but the dried form might be harder to miss. You would only need to carefully waft the smell if you have already smelled a real cola.

flower plant that looks like weed

Dont get confused with these woody plants that look like pot, even with their lobed leaves!

  • Japanese Maple Tree—The Japanese maple tree has beautiful leaves, which is why this medium-sized ornamental tree is a favorite among home gardeners. The five- to six-fingered leaves are easy for people who don’t know much about plant anatomy to get confused. On the other hand, the leaf lobes are joined at the base, which is different from marijuana where the leaflets are separated.
  • The chaste tree is a poplar tree-shrub that is used in alternative medicine. It has purple flowers and is often mistaken for cannabis. Like your favorite weed, its compound leaves are made up of five to seven leaflets, which look like the fingers on your hand. While it looks smooth at first glance, the surface isn’t as shiny as marijuana and the edges don’t have any ridges.
  • Money Tree—The leaves of the money tree are shaped like stars, which makes it a beautiful tropical plant to have inside. It’s another plant that looks like a weed. The leaves are shiny and have the shape of cannabis leaves. But before you jump to conclusions, take a quick look at its woody stem and perfectly smooth leaf edges. These are not characteristics of true hemp.
  • Horse Chestnut: The horse chestnut tree is native to the Balkans in Europe and was brought to the US. It is a popular shade tree, but it is very dangerous to eat. Unlike real chestnuts, which can be eaten, this one has compound leaves arranged in a fan shape, like stash. Cannabis is not likely to be the plant based on its size, shape, and stem.

flower plant that looks like weed

Some herbaceous and woody shrubs share similar characteristics with cannabis but shouldn’t be deceptive:

  • Many people don’t know this, but cassava is a root crop that is grown in the tropics and semi-arid regions where the soil isn’t very good. At first glance, its leaves look like pot leaves. They have five to six flaps. The red petioles make it different from marijuana. The stems are woody and brown, and as it gets older, they will have foliage scars (protrusions of the stem where the petioles are attached).
  • Kenaf: This woody plant comes from tropical Asia and Africa and is grown for its strong fiber. As the plant grows, its compound leaves get bigger and split into five or six extensions. But as it grows older, it makes a flower that looks like a common hibiscus. This is different from cannabis flowers, which are not very noticeable. Also, unlike marijuana, the notches on the edges of the leaves are not all spaced out the same way.
  • okra: This strange vegetable is also called “lady finger,” and it has another finger on its leaves. If you don’t know what it is, the five-lobed leaves are often mistaken for those of a pot plant. To avoid falling for this trap, look closely at the leaves. The leaflets are joined at the base, and the flowers look exactly like cannabis flowers.
  • Sweet Fern: The sweet fern is not a real fern because it doesn’t have flowers. Instead, it is a bayberry. Because the edges of its leaves are saw-toothed, it looks like a weed. You might be wrong about this bushy plant, though. First, look at how the leaves are attached to the stem and how tightly they are packed together. Also, the snaggy look of the leaf edges is very clear.

flower plant that looks like weed

Plant Size and Habit

  • 3-10 feet (1-3 m).
  • Erect, pyramidal, or bushy.
  • Herbaceous or non-woody stem surface.

flower plant that looks like weed

Spot the Difference Between Male, Female and Hermaphrodite Cannabis Plants

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