Five plants that look like Marijuana: a helpful visual guide for law enforcement and the curious
Back when I lived in Tennessee, I attempted to grow cassava plants indoors over the winter with the help of some grow lights. They were sitting on a nice window seat by one of the front windows of my house. I kept the curtains drawn to help keep in some of the heat.
One night after setting them up I went for a walk and looked at my house from the road.
I suddenly noticed the window: the grow light (now I’d get a better one, like this model) behind the cassava silhouetted the leaves against the curtain and I was shocked. It totally looked like I was growing pot.
Seriously – it was a hilariously incriminating tableau, if harmless.
Cassava don’t look much like marijuana up close, but they do have a similar leaf shape. With a light shining through them and out into the dark front yard, it looked like Cheech and Chong’s house.
There are plenty of plants – like cassava – that can sometimes be confused with marijuana by folks that aren’t that good at taxonomy.
I thought it might be helpful for me to do a post containing some of the various plants that grow in Florida (and other subtropical to tropical locations) that you might see in landscapes, food forests and butterfly gardens which have a cursory resemblance to Cannabis sativa.
Here’s what Marijuana looks like:
|Photo from Wikimedia commons.|
NOTE TO POLICE: THIS PLANT IS NOT AT MY HOUSE – IT’S FROM WIKIPEDIA!
Actually, the only time I’ve ever seen marijuana growing was when we rented a house down in South Florida.
Apparently someone had dropped seeds in the side yard because there was a sickly little plant there. The landlord pointed it out to us when we were inspecting the house for the first time, laughed, cracked a joke, then removed it.
So… let’s take a look at the look-alikes
Plants With Leaves That Look Like Pot
1. Coral Plant
This attractive flowering plant in the spurge family has leaves that look like marijuana; however, the milky latex, bright blooms and fleshy stems rapidly rule it out.
Before flowering it could perhaps be mistaken for pot; afterwards, there’s no way.
2. Cranberry Hibiscus
Latin name: Hibiscus acetosella
This member of the hibiscus family is often planted as an ornamental in warmer climates. It’s a perennial shrub with pink blooms that have burgundy throats. The leaves are edible raw or cooked, with a tart, lemony flavor.
If you were colorblind you might get worried about this one; otherwise, the red leaves should convince you that your potential criminal is just a plant enthusiast, not a drug dealer.
If the suspect has a tattoo of Bob Marley with a hookah beneath a glowing mushroom, however, all bets are off.
3. Rose Mallow/Scarlet Hibiscus
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I couldn’t help but be amused by this post. I can just see the alarm on your face when you looked into your window. The information for us who are ignorant of the look-alike plants (and the real one) is great.
Funny story: my little sister once bought a pair of earrings for my mom as a gift. The earrings were little gold marijuana leaves. Neither of them knew that’s what they were… my sister had just thought they were a pretty leaf design.
I had to tell them. “Uh… sis… those aren’t just pretty leaves!”
In retrospect, it would have been really funny if I just let mom wear them to church without telling her. My dad was the pastor at that point. Hee.
Hi My son got a tattoo on his arm when he was about 20. I asked him what it was and his answer was “Its a Canadian Maple Leaf” Time went by < about 5 years>when I learneed what it was. My family thought it was funny that he fooled me for so long.
I have something outside that actually looks exactly like marijuana. At first I thought it was. However, what is outside my house isn’t any of these plants. Any ideas?
Send me a pic – I’ll try to ID it for you.
content://media/external/file/24535. I haven’t been able 2 ID this plant or shrub. If you could enlighten me I’d be greatful. Thank you
If it has pink flowers and puts off long slim seed pods. It’s cleome. It grows prickly fleshy thorns as it grows.
If it grows tall and has pink flowers, good chance it’s a spider flower (cleome). The leaves are nearly identical to a pot plant.
The “Mexican Chaste Trees” on my college campus lead to numerous double takes.
I figured it was some non-THC containing legal hemp relative, until I tracked down one with an ID tag.
Chaste Tree is a good one for me to add – I have one of those growing in my yard for the bees and butterflies. It’s a hormone balancer for women… I think students might be disappointed if they smoked it. Or perhaps more balanced.
I grew Sunn Hemp (Crotolaria Juncea) as a cover crop in my front yard this summer and got quite a few people asking me what it was. I told them it was sunn hemp, and upon hearing the word “hemp” some of them gave me the most priceless facial expressions before walking away!
Don’t forget okra! Hear about the recent episode in the news?
No – I missed that one! I can imagine.
cops are not hired for their brains
I could tell you a funny experience about not marijuana plants, but seeing as I am from the Netherlands I don’t have any. However, my step-dad has a really big bag of crushed marijuana underneath his reading chair and I thought that was pretty funny the first time I heard about it.
Thank you for this article, by the way, it was really helpful for my (cop-themed) fanfiction!!
I’m in Alabama we have plants growing they smell like home grown weed they have hairs on stalk and are sticky to the touch they favor weed but not quite I know they are not but I’m stumped as far as what they are they are only in front of porch what might they be your cassava favored it but only the spot in middle of leaves at the base they are jagged but pretty much shape and look the same
Nice site you have here – I came across your site because I was curious as to what some wild-growing plants at a park near my house were. They very much look like marijuana and from other web searches, it appears the only way to differentiate between it and hemp is to analyze the THC content in a lab or home test (something I was willing to do 25-30 years ago, but not anymore – note: I’m not against the legalization, I just don’t have the desire to use it myself), but I digress. Anyway, given the history of the park – there used to be low-level dealers until a Pot bust ended it, I guess the plants are from ‘renegade’ seeds that took root.
Sam in MN
Cleome (aka spiderflower) is another cannabis lookalike:
You’re right – that’s a great one. Thanks for stopping by.
A very invasive species. Due to it’s many seed pods and poppy type seeds. Propagates well (understatement). I have it. Also has a pungent odor but a stand of them are beautiful. Appr. 4 to 5 ft tall.
Out of curiosity I have heard stories but is it safe to use the cassava leaf to roll marijuana in and smoke like a joint?
I have no idea, though I don’t believe it would work well for two reasons. 1. Cassava’s leaf shape would be no good for holding much of anything. 2. Cassava leaves contain cyanide, meaning the user would be inhaling some potential toxins along with their THC.
Water Hemlock, most poisonous plant in the USA was shown to the public as marijuana our City Police found. Lucky they didn’t kill people.
That’s pretty funny.
Its called weed because it grows just like it, anywhere and grows very quick and to any avid cannabis enthusiast a females flowers are a sight to behold.
Thank you for your post; I am trying to identify a plant that is mistaken (I hope) for weed (I live in Tn.) and I am glad for this article
Thank you, Patricia.
kenaf is hemp in farsi, or Hibiscus cannabinus, also referred to as Indian hemp, the agricultural kind used for fiber and rope making, middle easterners also salt and smoke the seeds that are eaten like peanuts. American hemp is Cannabis sativa and a different plant also used for biomass and ropes
[…] I would say that same and similar are very dis-similar! At times similar look can be deceptive and the two can be completely different. For egjample look here. […]
Best reply ever. Learn to punctuate. It’ll ad credence
Lol i wish people understood how much weed can mess u up. my friend got such bad hallucinations from it, a family member of mine was drinking while they smoked weed and went psychotic. totally messed up their lives. dont be dumbasses guys
I have something growing wild on my property that looks kind of like a marijuana plant. It’s actually kind of funny. I didn’t think much of it until, my husband said “looks like the person that owned the house before grew marijuana” lol! It’s not one of the ones in your list though. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is. Do you know wild plants that have a resemblance, in NY?
No, unfortunately. Not sure. It might be marijuana, though.
Another little laugh for everyone….about 30 years ago, I went to my cousin’s house to borrow heels to wear. I went to her closet and there was this giant plant with lights on it. At the time, I was about 18, and I didn’t know what marijuana looked like or that much about it. I asked her, “What’s the deal with the plant and light in your closet? If you brought it down to your living room, it would probably get enough light to grow.” Then she told me it was marijuana. I never exited a house so fast in my life. I told her the next day if she wanted her shoes back, she could come get them. 🙂 I guess I could have done a drive-by and thrown the shoes on her lawn.
I’ve now been gardening for a little over 20 years and know what a lot of plants are and look like, as I grow about 150 different varieties. I love Kenaf and do grow it. I love Hibiscus plants. Numerous types. I’ve had friends and family see the Kenaf and Cleome plants and tell me I’m growing pot. I just smile and ask them how long they’ve been gardening. Everyone that I know (except a master gardener friend) has a brown thumb. So then I explain to them what plants they are. They ask if I’m worried someone will pick it thinking it’s pot, and I just reply that if they do, they just may end up with one bad headache afterwards. I read that somewhere online. Not sure how true it is. They also wouldn’t have access to it unless they jumped my fence. I do most of my tropicals in flower pots since I’m in Zone 5.
A lot of my flowers have professional plant markers and say what they are. I would hope law enforcement would research something first before arresting someone. Perhaps taking samples of the leaves and having them analyzed. Otherwise, I could see a possible lawsuit against them, which would be unfortunate for all involved. And I have complete respect for law enforcement, as I have friends and family that fall under that category. I just always think it’s best to research, then take action. 😉
For those that love all different types of plants like I do, I say grow it. Unless, of course, it’s illegal to do so. Happy gardening, folks!
You should add the Japanese Maple leaf!
You’re right – that’s a good one.
Yeh hearing you brother
Good response. People just detest differing opinions, it seems. These folks who profess, so spitefully, to LOVE cannabis…really? Really? Huh? Could have fooled me. Way to represent.
Thank you, Derek.
Hi there! You were introduced to me via Justin Rhodes’ videos. I found a plant growing wild and wanted to identify it, and well, low and behold, I run into you here! I am still perplexed as to what it is I have, a hibiscus or maybe a hemlock? Is there any way I could send you a photo?
Absolutely – send me a shot. My email address is:
david ( at ) the survival gardener ( dot ) com.
Hi. I’m looking for a particular weed that randomly started growing in my landscape after 10 years. I’ve been on so many sites I can’t see straight.
I liked your page a lot till I got to the part about going to arrest the guy with the tattoo instead of you. Yeah, I smoked maybe a dozen times in my life, was a heavy drinker too. Yet I didn’t get any of my tattoos until recently. So I find that comment offensive and judgemental. But I mean no harm and don’t hold it against you. Some people are just plain ignorant about certain things therefore should not speak of them.
Anyway, this plant/weed has one stem then, I guess you’d say it branches off into several of these leaf “clusters”. Each “cluster” has 5 leaves. I don’t know anything about this stuff so it is hard to explain.
I was wondering if I too could send you a picture and you could tell me what you might think it is? Just let me know and where to send it. Just so you know in advance, I am technology stupid! I hate it all.
Thank you for your time.
Got the email and responded. I am definitely judgemental and offensive. The cops do profile people, like it or not.
But! That plant you sent me the image of: Aesculus pavia. Red buckeye. Great find. Another palmate leaf. I was thinking of planting a buckeye in my yard but processing the seeds to make them edible was too much work.
I can’t believe you don’t have an almost dead look-alike on the list: Potentilla Erecta uswildflowers.com/detail.php?SName=Potentilla%20erecta
It has 7 leaves and looks just like cannabis. The exception (aside from NOT being cannabis) is the leaf tips aren’t pointy to the extent that cannabis is. I was freaking out thinking it was growing all over my property until I discovered that it wasn’t Cannabis! Whew, LOL.
Add that one to your list…
Sorry, that should be Potentilla ‘recta’ not ‘erecta’. My typo.
Loved reading ..most of this lol and I did find out what a plant was growing in my wild flower garden. Potentilla recta! Thanks I did not want to google any more. Wtg Dtg and Sean.
Hope u got the next post of just use purple as my name on blog thx
Castor Bean plant and a house plant – False Aralia – can sometime be look alikes…
Cool article. Thank you!
I found a dead ringer for the cannabis plant however it only has three leaves and at the end of the stems grows a small yellow flower. I live in SE Ohio. I swore this was some pot, found it growing in a ditch ….all by itself! I posess a green thumb so I brought it home and re- planted it. The stalk is now purple and I’ve found two more just like it by my house! What is this called please!
I may have that same weed here at my place. Can you send me a picture?
What plant have THC like marijuana.?
Some of those don’t really look like weed at all. Should’ve added Cleome, that one does.
Yes – that one is a dead ringer. Good addition.
I know this is several years later, but folks might find this interesting …
Headline: “Police mistook hibiscus plants for marijuana, arrested Buffalo Township couple, suit claims.” Apparently the cops were tipped off by the couple’s insurance agent who was in their backyard investigating an unrelated claim. The cops went in and terrorized the couple.
That’s nuts. Thank you for the link.
What about Plerandra elegantissima otherwise known as False Auralia?
What all of you pro-marijuana guys / gals fail to realize is that it has other side effects that will over take you completely. If you feel anxiety and paranoia and feel a rush of anxious thoughts – research Nux Vomica as a possible antidote (available also at Amazon, also research “anti dote to marijuana”.
Nux Vomica? Contains large quantities of strychnine, so it makes a very poor “antidote” for anything…except life.
Not if it’s homeopathic!
I purchased a small house plant, that has like a bamboo trunk ( it also had a waxed top) it grew pretty willowing leaves that looked like marijuana leaves. I have found out that it is a sensitive plant , if watered too much all the leaves would fall off. It would sprout new branches and grow taller. I have moved and it did not get enough water, so the stalk has dried out, and I’m afraid it’s gone. I have been searching for another but I have no idea what it could be called, any ideas?
I’ll need to take a picture, but I found a weed/plant growing in our garden bed the other day, that to me looks like marijuana. However, my husband says it’s a wild strawberry plant. The leaves are in groupings of 5, have the serrated edges like marijuana, with the leaves gradually getting bigger toward the center leaf. Could it be a wild strawberry? I’m in Maryland, so not sure it could be marijuana anyway.
Not a plant i guess, but the chestnut tree in my yard drops chestnuts that get scattered all over and the new baby trees that grow have an identical leaf to marijuana. They have thin serrated leaves in groups of 5 or 7 that grow opposite each other in the spring. Then they get more wide and fan out as the summer comes. Very convincing until the stalk turns woody.
Yeah, I’ll bet. Sounds like a horse chestnut.
I’m trying to ID a plant that looks similar to marijuana. Thin pointed leaves (5 on a stem) with red veining. Grows upright. I thought it might be in the tropical family — maybe a hibiscus, but I can’t find a similar picture.
I found the name : Ming Aralia, thanks for all the suggestions
My Texas 5-Star Hibiscus has leaves that many visitors to our backyard do double-takes to because the 5 point leaves look suspicious. 😉
Before Cannabis was legalized here, I had an artificial Japanese Maple tree, and had police at my door inquiring about the plant I was “growing” in my house.. One of my neighbors saw it through the window and thought it was Cannabis. When I showed the police my rare Cannabis plant, they thought it was pretty hilarious, considering the leaves are red and it was plastic.. lol!
Bruh I love pot… I came here too see how i could rip someone off and I only got the leaf look alike what plants have similar buds?
To: Cannabis, you need to get off the pot and go back to school to learn how to write and speak properly, then maybe, you might be smart enough to rip someone off!
I found small kenaf plant growing in the garden, (in Kenya) Shit atfirst i was so happy i found weed growing in our compound. But i wasnt quite convinced it was weed, so i googled plants that resemble pot and found this post. Thank goodness i was about to do some cbd oil extraction
If you see it at a glance and don’t know what your really looking for Virginia Creeper can look like MJ it can also look like Poison Ivy.
Anybody that looks up a pot plant online will know instantly that any of those plants are not marijuana plants I’ve grown a lot of pot in my days and I know the police would never mistaken those I’m so glad that we’re finally coming out of our backward s way of thinking about pot despite what people may tell you it’s virtually harmless you can’t overdose and nobody’s going out robbing and stealing to get their marijuana fixed that shit just don’t happen and people that have been smoking for a while and that are familiar with it can get in a vehicle and drive just fine as long as they’re not drinking or on any other drugs alcoholics crash and kill people us stoners just miss our exits pot is the only drug that I’ve done that hasn’t had a negative impact on my life or came close to ruining my life start make far more good than harm and coming from an ex-heroin addict it got me off of methadone when I got on methadone to get off heroin and I just couldn’t get off the methadone for nothing until I started smoking weed again now it’s all I do I don’t drink I don’t smoke I don’t do any drugs I just smoked my bud and it treats my anxiety and my depression along with numerous other ailments that come up along the way
lol! you “poor” ignorant anti marijuana saps.. + profiling like cops = dumbasses. normally i wouldn’t respond to crap like this, i avoid ignorance but i’m a “stupid, ignorant, tatted, hoodlum, that’s been smoking marijuana on and off for 36 years” It was marijuana that helped me stay sober for 9 years so far, to the point i don’t think about drinking after drinking for 22 years. Which would’ve been 31 years of drinking had it not been for marijuana. So i guess the guy who said that earlier, that you insulted, compounded by the fact of my sobriety AND has been proven to help people get off opioids PROVES HOW F IN STUPID AND SHALLOW MINDED YOUR DUMB ASSES ARE!!
If you have a plant that looks like pot – wait – it might be harmless! Check out these five plants that look like marijuana.