In reality, there are several plants out there that are somewhat similar looking to corn.
Interestingly, the majority of them also have similar growth and prefer to thrive in the same environment as corn does.
In this article, we’ve researched extensively to assemble all the plants that can be mistaken for corn. If you are excited to know about these corn look-alikes, keep reading the article.
7 Plants That Look Like Corn
Corn Plant (Dracaena Fragrans)
The corn plant, or Dracaena Fragrans, has corn in its name because its leaves look similar to the corn stalk. Apart from this, this flowering plant has nothing to do with corn or maize.
The corn plant is native to tropical Africa and belongs to the asparagus family. However, as an ornamental indoor plant, it has immense popularity all over the world, including in the US. The reason it is widely seen indoors is that it can sustain and grow in low light conditions and requires a moderate amount of water only.
However, if you want to grow it indoors, place it near the windows or at a bright point of the house. It grows well when kept in a shiny location. This evergreen perennial requires comparatively lower maintenance to develop.
Sorghum is a native plant to tropical Africa and, therefore, tolerant to heat and drought. Grain sorghum plants bear some resemblance to the grown corn plant, with both sturdy stalks reaching a comparable height with maize or corn.
However, many corn varieties tend to be taller than Sorghum. Overall, a sorghum field looks similar to corn and is more colorful in appearance.
Although native and popular in Africa, grain sorghum is widely cultivated in the US, especially as a forage crop to feed livestock. On top of that, the US is the biggest producer of its grain.
Sorghum is a source of high energy that facilitates many animals, including chickens and pigs. As a food source of dietary fiber and antioxidants, Sorghum can also be edible by humans. Sorghum-made flour is gluten-free, although corn flour is more popular. Besides, sorghum is used as a cost-effective alternative for making alcoholic beverages and ethanol.
Quack Grass (Elytrigia Repens)
Quackgrass is a perennial grass that is often considered a weed in the US due to its aggressive growth and the nature of competing with desirable crops and plants.
When quackgrass and corn seedlings first sprout, they both have narrow, grass-like leaves that look similar. At that time, many people may mistake quackgrasses for corn plants. However, corn leaves widen out once the plants mature.
As a common persistent weed, quackgrasses are also seen to be growing in the area where corn is cultivated. Both plants can be noticeable side by side in the cropland, and you may need help to differentiate them at their young age.
Elephant Grass (Miscanthus Giganteus)
Elephant grass, also known as giant miscanthus, has some similarities in appearance with corn. Standing tall with dense growth and wilting foliage, elephant grass reminiscent of corn, it’s easy to mistake one for the other when viewed from a distance. This grass is often used as a high-yield forage crop for cattle and is also an excellent source of biofuels.
Some notable differences that help you discern are elephant grass plants are relatively higher than corn. Besides, you can notice a cylindrical corn cob or ear at the top of the corn’s stalk where grain or kernels are attached.
But elephant grass has feathery plumes and doesn’t have any cob or ear. A significant difference in nature is that corn is an annual plant, while elephant grass is a perennial grass.
In Africa and India, millet, particularly pearl millet, has been a staple crop since ancient times. Similar to corn, millet can grow and thrive well in high-temperature regions and is also tolerant to drought and low-moisture soil. As the growth habitats of corn and millet are quite identical, both plants are easily noticeable in the same region and have a close resemblance to each other.
While pearl millet is a staple food in many parts of the world, including Africa, it is also grown as a fodder crop for livestock, especially in drought-prone regions in the US where other forage options may be limited.
One visual clue to differentiate corn and pear millet is that corn plants are generally taller than millet. Moreover, The seeds of pearl millet are smaller and rounder compared to the larger, elongated kernels of corn or maize.
Arundo, which goes by the name giant reed, is an invasive perennial grass. It is known for its tall, bamboo-like stems and feathery flower heads.
Arundo is native to Asia and widely available in the Mediterranean region, South and North America, and some parts of Europe. Interestingly, it is a popular building material for music reeds.
Arundo and maize belong to the same grass family, which is Poaceae. Their overall growth habit, upright strong stems, and drooping leaves make both look close alike of each other.
However, one notable difference is that the Arundo is taller and can reach impressive heights of up to 15 feet. Also, corn plants have some reproductive parts called tassels in the male and ear in the female flower structure. But Arundo doesn’t produce ears and tassels.
Arundo, or Giant Reed, is native to parts of Asia and the Mediterranean region. However, it has become an invasive species in various parts of the world, including North America, where it can outcompete native vegetation and negatively impact ecosystems.
Johnson Grass is another weed species that may mislead you to think of it as corn or maize. Both Johnson Grass and corn have long, thin-colored, and grass-like leaves. However, the corn leaves broaden out when they mature.
Johnson grass and maize or corn sometimes share the same growing space, as Johnson grass is a common weed in cropland areas. Similar to the corn’s kernel (grain or seed), johnson grass also produces seeds, but on a seed head, which is a part of the plant’s flowering structure.
The seed head of Johnson grass is typically open and feathery in appearance, with multiple small seeds attached to the spikelets. On the other hand, the seeds or kernels of corn or maize are connected to a central part known as a cob or ear.
However, people are only sometimes welcoming to johnson grass as it is considered an aggressive invasive plant, especially in the cropland, preventing the growth of other plants. Millions are spent each year trying to control johnsongrass infestations through chemical, mechanical, and cultural methods.
Johnson grass spreads rapidly and can reduce crop yields by as much as 50-80%. It competes vigorously for water and nutrients. In the US, it is most problematic in the south as the weed grass thrives in hot regions.
Differentiating a Real Corn Plant
With all the similar-looking plants, you should confidently identify or differentiate corn or maize from others. Some traits and physical appearance genuinely give you a clue as to whether a plant is corn or not.
Corn has a sturdy and upright stem that can grow quite tall, with each leaf attached to the step at different heights. However, it is challenging to discern corn plants only by the height and leaves pattern.
The most distinct feature of corn is the ear of corn, also known as corn cob, which is covered in tightly packed rows of kernels or corn seeds. These kernels are grains that we harvest for consumption or other uses.
With each of the grain or kernels, a strand of silk emerges. These slender, thread-like structures are a crucial part of the corn’s reproductive process, and the presence of the threads or silk on top of the corn cob is an identification of a real corn plant.
One last clue is to look into fully developed kernels. If they are in a compact arrangement, it’s almost certainly corn.
If you’ve read the articles well, you should know that these copycat plants are not only similar in outward appearance but also share some common characteristics with corn or maize. For example, many of these plants, such as corn and grain sorghum, thrive in tropical and subtropical climates, and some serve as valuable forage for cattle.
Understanding these impostors and their similarities to real corn comes down to watching how they are different in structure. And we have described that part so you can instantly recognize any real maize or corn. So, the next time you see a plant that seems like corn but isn’t, you’ll be smart enough by then to know which one is what.