Plants come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes nature creates some truly fascinating and unique specimens that catch our attention and intrigue us. You may come across a farmer’s field with tall stalks like corn but notice that they lack the characteristic cob. Or maybe you found something similar in your backyard and are wondering whether you’ll have some corn on your hands by the end of the summer. However, not all tall stalks are corn, even if they look very similar.
10 Plants That Look Like Corn Stalks
Corn is part of the grass family, so many other plants share its characteristics, both cultivated and invasive. We use corn for all sorts of things, from alcoholic beverages to fuel, but there are also other plants that you use for similar reasons, sometimes as an alternative to corn.
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1 Corn Plant
With a name like a corn plant, it isn`t unexpected that it is one of the most common flora confused with corn stalks. It has slender leaves stooping down over the stem, harking back to the long leaves on full-grown corn stalks. The corn plant is a household plant in the US and Europe.
Corn plants can grow very tall, getting somewhere between 1.2 to 1.8 meters when fully mature. When it’s young, it very closely resembles a young corn stock. However, as the corn plant ages, it starts to have a more bamboo-like stem and doesn’t produce any tassel-like flowers or cobs at any point in its maturity.
2 Johnson Grass
Johnson grass is categorized as a weed in the United States because it tends to grow and thrive anywhere. It’s a type of grass that grows very tall, getting up to 1.8 to 2.1 meters, helping it look like corn seedlings at an early stage.
One of the easiest ways to tell Johnson grass from corn stalks is to inspect the roots with red-brown or black seeds for Johnson grass, not corn. Another identifiable feature is a vein that runs down the center of the leaves, which turns into an off-white color as it gets to the base of the leaf.
3 Sorghum Crop
Sorghum crops are prevalent in the Southern and Midwestern United States. It’s another grass type with a leafy appearance, much like corn stalks. It’s closely related to corn as it’s also part of the same grass family.
The sweet sorghum crops have a lot of sugar, which farmers grow to produce syrups. There’s also gray and sore gum or Milo, which is less sweet but great for feeding livestock. If you see a large field that looks like corn but not entirely, it’s probably sorghum.
Sorghum can also grow tall, reaching around 1.5 to 3 meters depending on the growing conditions. However, compared to corn, sorghum is thinner and doesn’t have as lush leaves.
But the main difference is in the flowers since sorghum’s flowers appear more like large tassels at the top of the stem instead of cobs like corn.
4 Giant Reed
Giant reeds are one of the tallest types of grass, reaching about 6 ft. tall. It has a very strong stem with drooping leaves that make it look like corn stalks. However, these stems are also hollow, which is why it is compared to wind instrument reeds.
This plant differs from others on this list because it isn’t part of a grass family, but it’s considered a cane. Usually grows in wetlands instead of the dryer locations that corn prefers. In late summer, you will see giant reed flowering, which produces long purple-silver plums.
5 Quack Grass
Quackgrass or couch grass is a very quick-growing grass that is persistent and can grow in love with different environments. Most people consider it a weed, especially in cultivated areas. It has flat drooping leaves that are very similar to what you’d find in corn which results in people mistaking it for young corn.
One of the key features that distinguishes quack grass from corn is the texture of its leaves. The underside of the leaf is waxy or hairy. In contrast, corn has a very smooth leaf.
It also has long white roots, which help it spread in its environment. Quack grass can get up to 1.2 meters tall and grows in clumps which is different from how corn grows.
6 Giant Miscanthus
We commonly use this tall plant for biofuel. It’s a special hybrid of two wild species. It is another type of grass that can grow from 3 to 4 meters tall in just one season. It’s also a perennial, meaning you don’t need to sow it yearly, making it a very successful biofuel crop.
Its drooping leaves and thin stem make it look like corn, but Miscanthus has a woody stem and more delicate, longer leaves than you’ll find on a corn stalk. Since it’s grown in farmers’ fields, it’s easy to see why some people mistake it for corn.
7 Pearl Millet
Pearl Millet is a wild plant popular in the US for hay or fine grains for animal feed. It grows well even in drought conditions, so it’s excellent for areas with little rainfall.
It’s another type of grass that can grow around 1.5 to 3 meters tall. It flowers in the late summer with long spikes at the top of its stems. Its flowers are the closest you’ll see to corn’s cobs with their golden color and pods of buds.
These flowers result in white grains, commonly harvested for farmers at the end of the summer. Pearl Millet has one key characteristic that differentiates it from corn: it grows in clumps of stalks from one central plant. Corn only has one stem per plant, so it’s pretty easy to tell the two apart.
Crabgrass is some other invasive grass species, usually erroneously thought to be corn seedlings. It grows low to the earth and has lengthy drooping leaves on the stem. Do not forget it is a weed because it may take over a place quickly.
The simplest way to differentiate crabgrass from corn is that it frequently has a couple of stems from one plant, which corn does not.
9 Great Millet
Great Millet has plenty of similarities to corn to the point that one of its names is broomcorn. It has a stiff stem and seeds that grow at the end of each stem. People harvest it to dry the seeds to make broom bristles and brushes.
One of the differences from corn is that it has multiple stems per plant, and its seeds are more feathered than a cob of corn.
Arundo is another type of grass and is a weed in Europe. It has bamboo-like stems and drooping leaves that are similar to corn. Its roots easily grow and flourish to the point where it can push out other species if you let it run wild.
Arundo has feather-like seeds instead of the cobs you will find on corn and can grow incredibly tall if the growing conditions are right. It also tends to grow in clumps, which differentiate it from the rows you commonly see with corn.
Many plants look like corn stalks, especially young corn seedlings. Most of these species are invasive grasses you don’t want growing near corn fields. However, farmers intentionally grow some of them to make syrups or to feed animals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a flower that looks like a corn stalk?
Pearl millet has a flower resembling a corn cob before flowering in the summer. They have long flower spikes with clusters of flower buds that have a dark yellow or tan color.
Are there weeds that look like corn?
A few different weeds look like corn, but crabgrass is the most common, resembling young corn. Crabgrass is an invasive grass that can quickly take over a lawn.
What house plant looks like a corn plant?
The corn plant is the most well-known house plant that looks like corn stalks. It is most common in the US, UK, and Europe, and the leaves appear slightly different depending on your variant.
What is the plant that looks like a corn dog?
If you see a plant that looks like a corn dog, it is most likely a cattail. They have tan and brown flower spikes that grow on the ends of mature stems.
Is Dracaena the same as corn plant?
Dracaena is the same as corn plant. It is the scientific name for the ornamental houseplant.
Hey, I’m Lisa and I’ve been an avid gardener for over 30 years. I love writing, talking and living in the garden! Feel free to connect with me on my socials below