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marijuana leaf look alikes

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…

Don’t Let These Marijuana Lookalikes Send You To Jail!

Did you hear about the guy in Georgia who said police raided his home after they mistook the okra he was growing for marijuana? Okra doesn’t look like pot to me, but maybe it does to a cop hovering 60 feet above in a helicopter.

The poor guy thought the police were after his okra plants, but they were actually interested in the plant they really thought was Mary Jane — chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus). Neither he or the cops knew what it was. This just underscores the importance of knowing your plants, so you don’t get hauled off by Miami Vice. Here are four popular plants often mistaken for weed.

Pot Imposter #1 — Chaste tree

Yep, this is what got Mr. Perry into deep doo-doo with those detectives. I sure hope it isn’t a giant marijuana tree, because I took this picture in my front yard. (Hey, you kids, stop stripping the foliage!) Without the flowers, chaste tree does indeed resemble marijuana. The leaves of both are palmately compound with chaste tree’s having 5 to 7 narrow leaflets and Happy Plant’s having 7 to 9. Far from getting you high, chaste tree has the opposite effect, as you might guess from its name. During the Middle Ages, an extract from its seeds was used by monks to decrease libido and remain pure. Maybe they should have just smoked pot.

Pot Imposter #2 — Texas Star

Right after I graduated from college, I lived in an apartment complex where an Asian lady maintained a little garden. Every morning, she was out there watering, weeding, and cultivating. I marveled at her dedication until I figured out what she was growing — pot! The leaves looked just like it. What foolhardiness, I thought, considering that a least a half-dozen cops lived in the complex. Why, I’ll be she brought the seeds with her all the way from Vietnam!

Then the plants bloomed. Huge, star-shaped, scarlet flowers opened up atop the stems. Could this be the infamous “Panama Red?” No, it was a species of native hibiscus related to okra called Texas star (Hibiscus coccineus). I called off the DEA.

Pot Imposter #3 — Japanese Maple

Don't Let These Marijuana Lookalikes Send You To Jail!