Weeds That Look Like Rhubarb: How Can I Identify Them?


Rhubarb is a well-loved plant because its stems can be used to make amazing desserts. However, rhubarb must be prepared properly because some parts of this plant contain toxins which are very dangerous for consumption. To prepare rhubarb for cooking, knowing what the plant looks like is a must.

There are actually a lot of other plants that resemble rhubarb. But unlike rhubarb, many of these weeds cannot be eaten. Not many people know that the name Rhubarb does not belong to one plant. It is a name that refers to several plants, many of which are incorrectly named.

As a matter of fact, there are home gardeners out there who willing let some of these “rhubarb” grow freely in their yard simply because they thought that they were growing something beneficial. To help you know more, here are some weeds that look like rhubarb.

Weeds That Look Like Rhubarb: How Can I Identify Them?The Wild RhubarbThe Poison HemlockThe Prickly RhubarbConclusion

The Wild Rhubarb

wild rhubarb

Although you might think that this is some sort of exotic rhubarb variety, you might want to think twice before eating them. Wild rhubarb is also known as common burdock and it is commonly mistaken for rhubarb because of its appearance. It also has tall reddish stalks and large heart-shaped leaves.

This plant, however, is considered a prolific weed that often finds its way into home gardens. It can be very dangerous to mistake this weed for real rhubarb because it is actually inedible. As a matter of fact, it is considered toxic and has a diuretic effect. It is also known to cause allergic reactions and irritation.

To identify wild rhubarb from real rhubarb you need to check its stalks. Wild rhubarb has hollow stalks. It also has leaves that have hairy or wooly undersides. When allowed to grow, it will produce bristled burrs which can cause problems if it penetrates your skin.

The Poison Hemlock

poison hemlock

This plant also resembles rhubarb especially to the untrained eyes because it has long stalks. However, unlike rhubarb, this plant is considered an invasive weed and it can easily thrive in your garden. Knowing what this plant looks like is very important because it is very deadly.

As a matter of fact, all of the parts of the poison hemlock is very toxic and you should never touch it, let alone try to eat it. The best way to differentiate it from real rhubarb is by taking a closer look at its stems. The stems are tall and hollow, and unlike rhubarb’s red stems, these stems have purple spots.

Ingestion of this weed can lead to dizziness, slowed heart rate and death. If you want to inspect it properly just so you can be sure that it is not rhubarb, please wear gloves. Wear mask if you want to get rid of it and make sure that your kids and your pets are not around if you take it out of the ground.

The Prickly Rhubarb

prickly rhubarb

This plant has large wavy leaves as well as thick stalks that look like rhubarb. What makes it different is that it can produce red prickles and it can also grow bigger than the average rhubarb. As a matter of fact, if you let them grow uncontrollably, they can easily grow 8 feet high and 10 feet in width.

The prickly rhubarb family also includes the giant rhubarb and it is not actually related to rhubarb. Although it can look like rhubarb at first glance, this plant is considered a weed because it is not edible and some people think that they are not suited to grow on fruit or vegetable gardens.


plant rhubarb

Real rhubarb is toxic except for the stalks. If you want to try and harvest them in your garden or in other places, you definitely need to know what you are doing. Harvesting and preparing rhubarb is ideally left to trained individuals as it can be very dangerous if you happen to use the toxic parts.

The danger however turns from bad to worse especially if you have no idea what real rhubarb looks like. There are a lot of weeds including invasive and resilient ones that can easily grow in your garden or near your home. To untrained eyes, these weeds can look like any other typical rhubarb.

But unlike real rhubarb, they are inedible to say the least. Some of them are not just poisonous when ingested, they are also dangerous to touch. Poison hemlock for example, is a weed that looks like rhubarb and is something that you should never eat or touch with your bare hands.

If you think that rhubarb is growing in your garden, I highly recommend that you call a professional gardener to identify it and prepare it for you. Allow trained individuals to teach you how to identify real rhubarb and never try to guess if they are safe to eat or not.

Do you have weeds or plants that look like rhubarb in your garden? Tell us more about how you identified the plant in the comment section.

About the Author Emily Taylor

My name is Emily Taylor, gardening is my passion and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. I know that there are millions of people out there want their backyard and garden be attractive just like their front yard, so I am here to help you create your own backyard paradise.

Leave a Comment:

doug r pitman says May. 2018

Emily, very nice description. My family has always loved rhubarb and we have several plants. I was looking for the lookalike for I forgotten it’s name. Burdock, which you nicely mentioned / reminded me. Where ever I see a burdock plant growing, I feel confident that a rhubarb plant can grow there as well. Doug

K says Jul. 2019

I’m pretty sure that final photo of “rhubarb” is Swiss chard.

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