Garden Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) are perennial plants famous for their reddish stalks and sour taste. However, the edible stalks are used as sweetened fruit in pies, jams, and tarts. Rhubarb is an herbaceous perennial Rheum species and hybrid belonging to the Polygonaceae family. It establishes itself from short, thick rhizomes, and rhubarb sprouts multiple stems from the same rosette.
You might find this quick establishment plant as rhubarb grows outside your garden as it needs no or less care. However, don’t assume everything with red-brown stems is of the rhubarb varieties you can eat. There are many plants that look like rhubarb, yet these can be hazardous to your health.
For example, weeds that look like Wild rhubarb, Prickly rhubarb, Skunk cabbage, Poison Hemlock, and Pokeweed, some of which come with red-colored stalks to add to the confusion. While there are some differences in size, leaves, and a few purple spots, it doesn’t mean they are easy to distinguish. Knowing what does rhubarb look like makes all the difference. Such weeds and more should be removed from your garden, yet you don’t want to get rid of rhubarb if you have it growing nearby.
In our guide, you can learn more about how to identify rhubarb. By the end, you’ll know more about what does rhubarb plant look like and most importantly, what plants that look like rhubarb are dangerous. (Learn When Is It Too Late To Spray For Weeds)
Weeds That Look Like Rhubarb
Here you can find the top weeds that look like rhubarb and how you can tell one flowering plant apart from another.
Burdock Plants (Arctium Asteraceae)
The “wild rhubarb” is the common name for burdock weed. It was given this name because it has enormous leaves like edible plants.
It also possesses rhubarb-like stems, which are two characteristics that make this weed one of the most rhubarb-like plants.
Common Burdock, Wild Burdock, Burdock Weed, Clotbur, Rhubarbe Sauvage, and Lesser Burdock are all names for wild rhubarb.
So, how can you distinguish between rhubarb and burdock? The weed does not produce red and white flowers like rhubarb. Burdock weed has thorny burrs on the top instead of blooms.
It has rhubarb-like leaves with reddish stalks and huge heart-shaped leaves. It’s a prolific weed that readily makes vegetative growth in your garden.
So, if you see a rhubarb-like plant that isn’t flowering, it’s most likely a weed. Burdock weeds, in contrast to rhubarb, do not have smooth leaves.
Burdock is not edible and might cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in those who consume it; you can also experience diuretic effects.
Rhubarb that isn’t cultivated is known as wild rhubarb.
To begin, clip the stalks to check for damage. For example, the wild rhubarb/burdock has hollow stalks, yet those of rhubarb are not. (Read Will Bermuda Grass Choke Out Weeds)
It’s Burdock or Wild Rhubarb if the prickly burs protrude from the top of the plant, and it produces white or red flowers instead of burs rhubarb.
Burdock, often known as wild rhubarb, can reach a height of 6 feet, whereas rhubarb only reaches a height of 4 feet.
Check the leaves of the plant that is less than 4 feet tall and hasn’t produced burs; if the fuzz coat is present on the underside of the leaf, it’s burdock; if it’s smooth, it’s rhubarb.
Note: When inspecting for leaves, make sure your hands are clean or covered, as the fluff behind the leaves can irritate your skin.
In addition, you can find edible burdock, so don’t think just because this can be called burdock, it can be consumed.
Great Burdock has rhubarb-like leaves, yet it is easy to spot with its purple thistle-like flowers.
Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris)
Swiss chard is a rhubarb-like plant with big leaves, and like rhubarb, this is edible.
Why did Swiss chard grow like a weed in your garden? Although rare, if neighboring gardeners have previously planted such a veggie, it quickly grows and ends up one of the top weeds that look like rhubarb.
Chard is less bitter than rhubarb, which has a sour taste, especially when cooked.
Swiss chard or also known as Spinach rhubarb, is a rhubarb-looking plant with big leaves. It is easy to spot even with identical leaf features. The plant has a fuzzy appearance, unlike rhubarb plants.
In addition, the stems are white, yet the plants grow as high as each other. You can leave Swiss chard to grow with other plants because it is not toxic when consumed.
It will, however, compete for nutrients with your rhubarb plants, just like other weeds.
Brazilian Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera manicata)
Brazilian rhubarb is a rhubarb-looking blooming plant. The plant is known as giant rhubarb because of its massive leaves.
The Brazilian Giant Rhubarb is a poisonous plant and hazardous, unlike the food plants in your yard.
Thanks to its massive leaves and rapid growth, the Brazilian rhubarb resembles rhubarb yet is simple to recognize. The weed, for example, has rusty red leaves that are distinct from rhubarb. The central stem is also tall and green.
Gunnera manicata’s outstanding adaptability is why you’re more likely to see it in your yard. The weed thrives in a variety of soil types and textures.
Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
Skunk cabbage resembles a giant rhubarb with its spade-shaped leaves and thick stalks. However, unlike rhubarb, skunk cabbage grows only in swampy places, in the wild.
You may see the weed on the boundaries of your garden, even though it grows primarily in unmanaged areas. If you smell it, it is not rhubarb if it has a skunky aroma.
In addition, unlike rhubarb, which has either red or green stems, the weed’s stem is colorless.
The five weeds listed above resemble rhubarb. Some, however, are poisonous. If eaten in the same meal as the edible vegetable, it can cause significant health problems.
Skunk cabbage is a weed that is frequently mistaken for rhubarb. It has spade-shaped leaves that emerge from the center of the rosette-like rhubarb, although they are small.
This weed grows in bogs and marshes, which is a significant hint that what you’re looking at isn’t rhubarb. (Learn How Long Does Weed Killer Take To Kill Weeds)
Rhubarb prefers well-drained soils, but skunk cabbage prefers marshy areas.
The plant has many names in Europe and America. They thrive in mild temperatures. It grows tall reddish stems with stiff-leaf stalks. Angular leaves with sharp edges. Like rhubarb leaves but smaller and the flowers are white or red purple.
Indian Rhubarb is a perennial herb that grows 12 cm tall. It has a deep taproot and rough stalks with reddish-purple blooms. The leaves are oval, dark green, and glossy.
The leaves are long and slightly oval while thick, meaty, and moist. The plant has a long, flexible, sturdy stem and is covered in red, pink, or purple bristly hairs.
The stalks differentiate from any plant-like rhubarb. Rhubarb has firm, shorter stalks than weed-like stalks. Unlike rhubarb’s scarlet stalks, weed stems have purple dots.
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) has fern-like leaves and stalks that look like rhubarb.
The stalks distinguish this toxic plant from rhubarb, as they have hollow stalks and purple stems, unlike rhubarb’s red stalks.
Poison hemlock is toxic and causes symptoms including dizziness and slowing heart rate within 20 minutes of intake, and ingestion can be fatal. Luckily, other plants or weeds that look like rhubarb don’t look anything like this flowering plant.
Bog Rhubarb (Petasites Japonicus)
Bog Rhubarb is also known as Great Butterbur, Blatterdock, Bogshoms, and Sweet Coltsfoot and is a perennial plant.
They are found in Asia in Korea, Japan, Sakhalin, and China. Their rootstocks are thick and creepy.
They bloom before the leaves develop. The flowers appear on a thick flower stalk as capped clusters with a dense spike of bracts interwoven.
The flower stalks develop in late winter or early spring. Bog Rhubarb leaves were once used as rain caps or butter wrapping material.
Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria Japonica)
Another variety from the Gunnera species is Japanese Knotwood, also known as Donkey Rhubarb. Luckily, the huge rhubarb strain doesn’t look like the one you’d like to eat.
Fallopia japonica is a perennial herbaceous plant native to East Asia. It is considered an invasive weed in parts of Europe and North America.
Japanese knotweed looks like an edible rhubarb when young. The actual rhubarb plant has smooth leaves, but its stems are covered in wiry hairs. In addition, its leaves have deeply divided lobes.
Even folk healers considered Japanese knotweed appetizing. It’s considered to be mildly sweet and soft. Shoots can be eaten fresh, frozen, or used in soups and stews.
How To Get Rid of Wild Rhubarb?
Wild Rhubarb, also known as Common Burdock, is an invasive species that can be grown in your garden because it requires minimal maintenance. It is a low-maintenance plant that requires little care.
Wild Rhubarb infiltrates your garden by every means possible, establishing weed plants amid the actual rhubarb.
As a result, make careful to identify and remove them as soon as possible by following the measures outlined below.
Using pruning shears, remove the rhubarb stalks and leaves.
Dig out the base of rhubarb stalks with a trowel and discard the stalk.
Now dig a four-foot radius around the rhubarb plant to remove all exposed roots. Of course, you won’t be able to remove all of the roots, but the more you remove them, the more effective it will be.