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5 plants that look like wheat

Since wheat is a type of grass, there are many plants that look like wheat but aren’t edible. We’ve listed down 5 of them.

Before listing down all plants that look like weeds, it is important to know what wheat looks like. It may be obvious, but just to be sure you are not confusing it with any of these other plants, here are the characteristics of wheat:

  • An upright stem with a cylindrical shape and solid carrying nodes. It has solid internodes too.
  • Long flat leaves that can be anywhere from 3cm to 30cm long.
  • It produces red-brown, white-brown, or white grains, which are consumed.
  • Grows in a bunch with 5 to 40 stalks.
  • Wheat is usually about 0.4 and 1.2 m tall.
  • The size, grain and inflorescence vary depending on the species of wheat it is, as well as the growing conditions it is in. It grows in clusters with additional stems, ranging from 5 to 40 per plant.

Now that you know what wheat looks like, let’s check out similar-looking plants.

5 plants that look like wheat

These 5 plants are often confused with wheat:

1. Quack grass


Scientifically known as Elymus repens, this perennial plant is actually a weed. Its long and wide blades make it look a lot like most lawn grasses until it starts growing vertically.

Quack grass is a common lawn weed across the United States. You can be sure to find it growing in alfalfa fields.

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While often mistaken for wheat, quack grass is slightly darker than young wheat and other turf grasses.

To identify it, look out for its finger-like projections that form a hook around the stem, mostly at the base of the leaf blade at the point where it connects to the stem. These hooks are called clasping auricles.

Quack grass is known for its extensive fibrous root system, which spreads rapidly in fields. It also has rhizomes, which make it hard to eliminate.

Once you think you have killed it all, the roots have already spread elsewhere without knowing it.

Because of this, gardeners often decide to completely clear the lawn or burn it and then start growing their turf grass from scratch.

We prepared a guide for those struggling to get rid of quackgrass. Here, we’ve explained different methods you can use, whether you prefer chemicals or a natural approach.

2. Switchgrass

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
Image: Lotosk

Native to South America, Switchgrass is scientifically known as Panicum virgatum. You’ll often hear it called tall panic grass, tall prairie grass, wild redtop, thatch grass, and a long list of other names.

Switchgrass looks just like wheat. It was originally cultivated as a fodder crop to act as ground cover. But it also makes for a great decorative plant. It is one of the best perennial ornamental grasses commonly used in landscaping.

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Like wheat, it has a tall, erect structure with a central cylindrical stalk and seeds that look similar to wheat.

3. Yellow fox tail

Yellow Foxtail - Setaria pumila
Yellow fox tail

Setaria glauca is an annual warm-season grass. It thrives in very moist areas and fertile soils, growing up to 4 feet tall.

The plant has long, smooth, flat leaves, which can grow up to 12 inches long and ½ an inch wide.

On the upper surface of the leaves, close to the base, if you look closely, you will see about 1/8 an inch of spiral hairs.

The leaf edges are rough to the touch, and the stems are erect with a flat form, with a reddish color closer to the base.

Between June and September, the plant bears yellow seeds, whose heads measure 2 to 5 inches long.

The seeds are cylindrical and bristle-like, making the plant a grass that looks like wheat.

4. Hare Barley

Hare Barley
Hare Barley

Hordeum murinum spp. Leporinum is a very invasive and aggressive weed. It is also known as wild barley or winter barley.

Hare barley is found in the western states of the USA and sprouts in the winter. It can grow up to 3 feet tall, but most of them only manage to grow between 1 and 2 feet tall due to constantly changing soil and weather conditions.

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The leaves are flat and narrow, ranging from ½ to ¾ cm in width, and have a thick coat of hair on their surface.

Hare barley produces spikes between April and June, breaking apart from the node when they mature.

It is a good livestock feed, but once the seeds have matured, they become poisonous, and the plant is no longer safe for consumption.

Given their tall stature and aggressiveness, they tend to suffocate other plants that grow below them, such as alfalfa.

5. Amaranth

An Amaranth plant with its seeds

Amaranth is an annual herb that belongs to the genus Amaranthus. Its leaves have been used as a staple food for centuries. They are considered a superfood in other areas.

The plant produces many flowers, which gather large clusters of inflorescence.

Amaranth can be classified together with wheat, barley, and rice. Just like all of them, it is also grouped as a grain.

This highly resistant plant grows in most soils and tolerates extreme conditions like drought. It also makes for a great fodder crop and an ornamental plant.

With the information above, you should be better positioned to differentiate wheat from other plants if you encounter them on your lawn.