Rhubarb sparks much interest in gardeners once they come across look-alike plants in their yards. The confusion arises from plants that have similar stems and leaves.
While it’s true that these plants exist, it doesn’t mean they are in the same family or carry the same characteristics as the original plant. More astounding is that historically, other plants have been called Rhubarb.
The origin of the plant is still uncertain, but apart from it being edible, it also has medicinal properties that could be harnessed in the future.
Without further ado, let’s deep dive into the list of plants that look like Rhubarb. We will first take an in-depth look at the latter.
What Does Rhubarb Look Like?
Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial found in the Rheum species and hybrids; it also belongs to the family Polygonaceae.
It establishes itself via short, thick rhizomes. Gardeners find the fleshy and edible stalks of the Rhubarb a fantastic culinary addition.
This is typical in the US and Europe. However, it’s majorly used for medicinal purposes in Asia.
Their large triangular leaves are inedible because of the high levels of oxalic acid and other compounds such as the throne glycosides.
Rhubarb has tiny flowers that group to form large leafy rose-red or greenish-white inflorescences. Fundamentally, gardeners consider the plant a vegetable, but it also serves the culinary use of fruit.
Their stalks come in various colors, majorly appearing red or pink. Rhubarb dish has a sour taste, and most gardeners commonly prepare it with sugar and incorporate it in desserts.
Rhubarb thrives best in cooler temperatures below 5 degrees celsius. It breaks dormancy around spring when fast growth is stimulated.
It does well in summer temperatures averaging less than 23 degrees celsius, which helps to promote vegetative growth.
There are many Rhubarb varieties, but the most common is edible Garden Rhubarb.
Growing Rhubarb In Your Garden
Rhubarb grows in moist, fertile, well-drained soils rich in organic matter. Thorough soil preparation is of essence to ensure a bountiful harvest.
Rhubarb loves slightly acidic to neutral soils. One square of yard space is enough for each plant.
- Keep your bed clean by clearing it of problematic perennial weeds.
- Loosen the soil to 10 inches and add well-rotted manure to about 3-4 inches.
- When planting, maintain a soil cover of 1-2 inches on the crowns.
- Press the soil firmly around the base to get rid of air pockets.
- Apply a fertilizer that is rich in Potassium and Phosphorous.
Deep planting delays production. Once your Rhubarb starts growing up, add straw mulch to help control weeds and maintain soil moisture.
Get rid of flower stalks as soon as they appear since they deplete the reserves that promote vegetative growth. Apply a light sprinkling fertilizer each spring.
Plants That Look Like Rhubarb
If you are trying to collect Rhubarb plants for edible purposes, you want to be pretty selective when looking for them. There are look-alike plants with red stalks you could mistake for Rhubarb.
You should eat garden Rhubarb and not any similar plant to avoid food poisoning and other ill effects.
Here are the common plants gardeners confuse with Rhubarb.
1. Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Arctium Lappa is a plant in the Aster family. Gardeners consume the root part of the plant as a vegetable.
It’s one of the weeds that look like Rhubarb and loves invading areas with high nitrogen soils in parts of North America and Australia.
It has cordiform leaves that are large and alternating with a large petiole. Arctium Lappa should not be confused with Rhubarb despite being an edible vegetable.
It’s typically found in the wild, but you can also cultivate it in your garden. It’s also referred to as Edible Burdock.
2. Beet (Beta vulgaris)
Beta Vulgaris is also known by the name Spinach Rhubarb. It’s a flowering plant found in the family Betoideae.
Beet plants have basal leaves with a long petiole with colors ranging from white, red, or yellow in different cultivars.
The upper leaves are smaller with rhombic blades.
One look at their thick red stems, and you will think they are Garden Rhubarb. The root portion of the plant is commonly consumed as beetroot, while the leafy part is consumed as the Spinach Beet.
3. Canaigre Dock (Rumex hymenosepalus)
Canaigre dock is a perennial flowering plant native to North America, commonly found in South Western US and Northern Mexico. It’s a food plant that is cultivated for its roots.
The Canaigre dock is also used in leather tanning, thanks to its tannin content. The plant is also medicinal, and gardeners use it to make herbal tea for treating diarrhea and sore throat symptoms.
The leaves and leaf stalks (both young and old) are edible. The plant is a look-alike to Rhubarb, with both being in the same family. However, it isn’t a Rhubarb alternative for sure.
4. Monk’s Rhubarb (Rumex alpinus)
Monk’s Rhubarb is a perennial herb found in the family Polygonaceae. The plant is a native of Europe and Western Asia.
It has extra-large leaves that are ovate-round in shape. The leaf stalks have a long stout with irregular margins.
The upper surface of the basal leaves is hairless, with hairs found on the lower surface close to the veins.
Its leaves are pale green, which is the cause of confusion with Rhubarb. The stem tips have multiple flowers of red or purple.
Monk’s Rhubarb roots’ have medicinal value but not as much as Rhubarb’s.
5. Brazilian Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera manicata)
Brazilian Giant Rhubarb is the other plant gardeners can easily confuse with Garden Rhubarb.
It’s a flowering plant species and is more commonly known as Giant Rhubarb. It is a clump-forming perennial growing to a height of 8 feet.
Their large leaves have spikes on the underside, which spread along the stalk. The leaves are easily noticeable among other plants because of their dark green color.
It’s typically used as a shade because of its domineering nature.
6. Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica)
It forms deep thickets with red-brown stems that grow up to 2 meters high. Most gardeners also call it Donkey Rhubarb for peculiar reasons.
The most probable reason for the name stems from the notion that you will have to be a donkey to eat the Rhubarb-like stems.
7. Bog Rhubarb (Petasites japonicus)
Bog Rhubarb has several other names like Butterbur, Great Butterbur, Blatterdock, Bogshoms, and Sweet Coltsfoot. It’s a perennial plant found in the family Asteraceae.
It’s native to Asian countries like Korea, Japan, Sakhalin, and China. Their rootstocks are stout and fleshy and love creeping.
They have the unique habit of forming flowers before the leaves appear. Their flowerheads come out in crowned clusters having a dense spike; many of their bracts are usually interspersed on a round, thick flower stalk.
The flower stalks have a purplish hue and first show up in late winter or at the onset of spring. Formerly, leaves of the Bog Rhubarb were used as rain hats or butter wrapping material.
The plant carries medicinal value courtesy of its alkaloids.
8. Indian Rhubarb (Darmera peltata)
Indian Rhubarb is more commonly called the Umbrella Rhubarb. It’s a flowering plant in the family Saxifragaceae.
The plant is native to America and spreads through rhizomes. It tends to sprout flowers before the leaves in early spring.
Inflorescence emerges in rounded cymes having several five-petalled white to bright pink flowers. The flowers stretch up to 2 meters long.
Their leaves are umbrella-like, deeply lobed, visibly veined, and color-rich in autumn. Indian Rhubarb loves bog gardens or pond margins where it flourishes well, forming an umbrella-like shape.
You now know Rhubarb look-alike plants, and you should have no challenge identifying them in the wild or in your garden. Some have names similar to Rhubarb but are quite different in various aspects.