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plants that resemble cannabis

Plants That Look Like Cannabis

Cannabis is one of those plants that pretty much everyone over the age of 13 (for better or worse) can recognize. You can probably picture a cartoon version of this leafy, stalky, controversial plant in your mind if you try. Also called Marijuana, Hemp and weed or pot, Cannabis is versatile and common around the world for its innumerable useful properties. When I was living in West Philadelphia, police often raided houses after seeing some growing in a front yard. It was clear to everyone that this rogue sprout must have fallen from someone’s dime bag while waiting for the bus, or something similarly innocent. The cops never found anything in my neighbor’s houses, and it was almost silly to think that someone would intentionally grow outside their front stoop in the city.

The thing about this plant and almost all of its look-alikes is that they all grow like– well, a weed. Recently, I thought to myself, what if we planted non-Cannabis imposters all over the city, effectively normalizing its presence? Would these dope doppelgangers reduce the number of house raids on my neighbors? Would Cannabis copycats enrich the soil as Marijuana does? First, I needed to know what these plants were and if this plan even made any sense. It turns out, there are a handful of North American native Hemp look-alikes. One of my favorites is Cranberry Hibiscus. The rich purple color on these leaves looks a little more like a Japanese Maple than a Cannabis plant, though the leaf shape is a dead ringer for the five-fingered serrated edge green leaves we all know and love. The Cranberry Hibiscus grows in full sun as well as lightly shady areas and can bloom in the late fall and early winter in the U.S.

So Many Plants that Look Like Cannabis

Many people think that Wild Okra also looks similar to the plant that produces CBD. Their leaves have a similar personality, shape, and size. Okra, like cannabis, is also linked to protection from cancer and is a protocol for patients with some forms of cancer after it is detected in the body. Once you see the green rocket-shaped fruit shooting out of the plant’s center, however, it is clear that you are working with something very different.

The Texas Star Plant is also in the hibiscus family, so not unlike the Cranberry Hibiscus once it starts flowering it is hard to mistake for a Cannabis plant, however, before it blooms it can be a dead ringer for our green friend. This plant loves to be watered and bask in the sunlight, in order to produce it’s five-pointed star leaves, hence its name.

Cannabis is one of those plants that pretty much everyone over the age of 13 (for better or worse) can recognize. You can probably picture a cartoon version of this leafy, stalky, controversial plant in your mind if you try. Also called Marijuana, Hemp and weed or pot, Cannabis is…

5 plants that could be mistaken for cannabis

Published: February 26, 2020 · Updated: August 28, 2020

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Nothing delivers a high quite like cannabis, but there are a few look-a-like plants out there. So before you raid the conservatory or your neighbour’s greenhouse, brush up on the identifying markers of marijuana and some of its common imposters.

The easiest way to identify cannabis is by its distinctive leaves. Biologists describe them as palmately compound with serrate leaflets. Translation: the leaves are hand-like with lobes or fingers stemming from the leaf base. Each of these fingers, known as leaflets, have jagged edges. Cannabis plants typically sprout seven to nine narrow leaflets branching from the end of the stem.

And the pretenders are:

Chaste tree
Some say cannabis is the plant of love, in which case the chaste tree is the exact opposite. Monks used extracts from the seed of this Mediterranean plant to decrease libido.

Photo by Simona Pavan/Shutterstock

What’s the same?
When the chaste tree is young, its five to seven narrow leaflets are the same shape as cannabis leaves.

What’s different?
Like the name suggests, the chaste tree grows much taller—up to 15 feet—than cannabis, and its leaflets have smooth edges. The giveaway, though, is the stalk of lavender flowers that also grows from the tree.

Hibiscus
A couple varieties of this common flower and indoor plant resemble cannabis, particularly Texas star and kenaf. Kenaf even shares a Latin name with cannabis: hibiscus cannabinus.

Photo by Doikanoy/Shutterstock

What’s the same?
These varieties of hibiscus have similar narrow and rough leaves.

What’s different?
The leaves are droopier, and all hibiscus produce showy flowers.

Japanese maple
This variety of maple is delicate in size and leaf shape compared to our national syrup producer. It’s popular as a decorative garden tree or shrub.

Photo by Hinochika/Shutterstock

What’s the same?
In the spring, the Japanese maple has narrow, rough-edged green leaves.

What’s different?
The Japanese maple is a much woodier and stocky plant, plus, the leaflets share a wide base before breaking into individual points. Oh, and the leaves turn bright red by summer.

Coral plant
A showy, ornamental shrub from the Caribbean, the entire plant is mildly poisonous. The red clustered flower is popular with florists.

Photo by Simona Pavan/Shutterstock

What’s the same?
The palm-shaped leaves have seven to 11 lobes, just like cannabis.

What’s different?
The beautiful flower, for one. The leaves are also longer and bigger than cannabis, and the stems are thicker.

Cassava
Also known as manioc and yuca, cassava’s tuber root is the third most important food carbohydrate in the tropics after maize and rice, and it feeds an estimated 500 million people.

Photo by Grey Carnation/Shutterstock

What’s the same?
The palmated leaves have multiple stems branching from a single base.

What’s different?
The leaf edges are smooth, and they have a thicker vein running down the centre of each leaflet. The leaves are also bigger in proportion to the rest of the plant.

Before you raid your neighbour's greenhouse looking for cannabis, brush up on the identifying markers of marijuana and some of its common imposters.