Ferns are spore-reproducing plants that lack blooms. They may be identified by their intricate leaves. These decorative plants also lack seeds but do have roots, stalks, and leaves.
Unfortunately, there are weeds that look like ferns. For example, some of the most common weeds to be mistaken for ferns include Common Yarrow, Hedge Bindweed, Giant Ragweed, Purslane and Ground Ivy.
Continue reading to learn more about the top 10 common weeds that look like ferns, including Japanese Knotweed, Poison Sumac, Dandelions, Crabgrass, Common Ragweed, and more.
What Are the Top 10 Most Common Weeds that Look Like Ferns?
First, see more on the look alike category:
1. Japanese Knotweed
Japanese knotweed is an extremely persistent and invasive weed that can harm your property and decrease the value of your house.
This weed can also be challenging to detect, as it more often than not will also appear like a fern. However, being able to recognize the early warning signs of an infestation can also help you avoid a lot of time and hassle.
Early identification is crucial when it comes to dealing with this invasive species. After all, Japanese knotweed is known for being an aggressive and hardy weed. It is, therefore, recommended that you use herbicide treatments for any Japanese knotweeds.
This can not only stop the aerial growth you see above ground, but the roots often referred to as rhizomes, which can continue to maintain life for up to 20 years if not dealt with appropriately.
2. Poison Sumac
Poison sumac is a tiny tree or shrub that typically grows adjacent to cattails and cinnamon ferns in moist places. This weed, like many other poisonous plants, can also be quite beautiful. After all, its white berries and vibrant fall foliage make lovely, albeit possibly hazardous, yard additions.
These plants also have pinnate leaves that resemble feathers or the leaves of ferns. For example, a poison sumac plant leaf can have anywhere from nine to thirteen leaflets, positioned opposite one another, on each pinnate leaf.
Many people consider the first dandelion a sign of spring. These invasive weeds, with unmistakable yellow flowers, frequently sprout in both gardens, as well as gaps in sidewalks and driveways.
While technically classified as a weed, these weeds are also considered perennial plants that may be used to create wine or eaten in salads. Interestingly enough, dandelion plants actually have a number of purposes, but many homeowners would rather get rid of them.
Considering that these weeds can also appear like ferns, it is essential to know the difference in order to avoid an infestation.
For example, when attempting to identify a dandelion from a fern, note that the base leaves of dandelion plants are toothy, deeply notched, and hairless. These plants also grow in a rosette above the primary taproot and range in length.
If left unattended, weeds like crabgrass can, unfortunately, take over your entire yard. For instance, because crabgrass mixes in so well with your lawn’s grass, it can occasionally be hard to spot.
Due to its capacity to adjust to its surroundings and growth conditions, this plant can also appear different depending on the location of growth.
For example, crabgrass seedlings resemble tiny corn stalks in their early stages. The leaves then begin to branch out as the plant matures. It is also important to note that crabgrass has thicker blades than grass when it first begins to develop.
These blades join to form a stem with a star-shaped spread as the plant matures. This can often make the plant resembles a fern.
Crabgrass weeds can also appear taller. For example, on one hand, this weed can grow up to 48 inches, or it can appear shorter with smooth blades and grow up to 6 inches.
The good news is that you can keep crabgrass from taking over your lawn with a variety of methods. The trick is to strike and remove the plants quickly.
5. Common Ragweed
Common ragweed is a plant with upright growth and green leaves that almost resemble ferns in appearance. For example, similar to fern fronds, ragweed leaves have a hairy look.
Additionally, this plant is typically found in soil that is sparsely populated and low in fertility, and it frequently loves dense, tilled soil. They also do not tolerate being mowed very well.
Overall, the plant’s blossoms are one of the easiest ways to spot this weed. For instance, common ragweed often produces long, yellow flowers that resemble streamers. The plant will also have a number of clustered blooms that resemble a fountain at the top and a number of other flowers at the bottom.
6. Common Yarrow
A perennial blooming plant known as common yarrow also goes by the names gordaldo and thousand leaves. Due to the feathery form and lacy texture of the plant’s fragrant leaves, the southwest region of the United States also refers to this weed as a plumajillo, which is Spanish for “small feather.”
In order to distinguish common yarrow from ferns, look for a plant with fern-like leaves that have a sage-like scent when crushed. Take note that while the plant’s finely segmented leaves give it a fern-like appearance, it, unfortunately, is not a fern at all.
The majority of the leaves on common yarrows will also develop at the plant’s base in a rosette-like arrangement that curves upward.
7. Hedge Bindweed
Similar to other fern-like weeds, which often bloom white or yellow, hedge bindweed also has an appealing flower. However, this is no common weed. For example, this species of bindweed has vast rhizomes and very deep taproots, making it challenging to control.
Typically, this weed is found blooming in several crops, ornamental landscapes, and grass fields throughout North America, making it both prevalent and harmful.
If you are a farmer, it is especially important to take note of this weed. After all, hedge bindweed contains alkaloids that are somewhat harmful to some cattle species and can disrupt digestion.
8. Giant Ragweed
The “palmate” leaves of giant ragweed are composed of several leaflets and resemble ferns in appearance.
This plant’s green stems are coated with small white hairs, and its leaves typically have serrated edges. In addition, the smaller leaves towards the plant’s base frequently contain hairs on the undersides of those leaves.
Flowers on giant ragweed also resemble those on common ragweed quite a bit. For example, these plants also flower in a cylindrical form, reaching between three to six inches long.
In field crops and lawns all over the world, purslane grows as a weed naturally. Interestingly enough, Mucilaginous compounds found in this plant have also been found to have therapeutic use.
For example, Purslane stems are rich in vitamin C and have five times as much vital omega-3 fatty acid as spinach.
When it comes to identifying this plant, many gardeners have trouble distinguishing it from a fern. After all, purslane has alternating, fleshy oval leaves and smooth, reddish, mostly prostrate stems. At joints and stem ends, leaves also frequently collect in clusters.
10. Ground Ivy
There are several names for the ubiquitous lawn weed known as ground ivy. For example, this weed goes by several other names, like “gill-over-the-ground” and “creeping Charlie”. Despite being a weed, ground ivy has a lovely blossom, and when you mow it, it emits a pleasant perfume.
Take note, however, that since it is a member of the mint family, this plant can sometimes be intrusive. For example, in many places, it is considered a noxious weed.
On the other hand, when maintained and cared for properly, this “weed” can also serve as a helpful ground cover. For instance, ground ivy favors wet, shaded locations where grass and other plants are often unable to thrive.
Should I Be Removing Weeds that Look Like Ferns From My Garden?
When considering whether to eliminate weeds in your yard that resemble ferns, it is important to first identify the weed. After all, the weed might be invasive or perfectly innocuous depending on the plant variety.
Overall, if the plant is deemed harmless, then personal choice is deemed the best course of action to take.
Surprisingly, some individuals use these fern-like plants to fill up empty spots in their gardens. However, keep in mind that the weed you pick must be carefully maintained in order to prevent it from becoming invasive or taking over.
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