Plants That Look Like Rosemary: Note The Difference!

Plants That Look Like Rosemary

For the years I plucked rosemary herbs from my garden, I never thought there were look-alikes. Just the lavender had mixed me up when shooting. Then came my herb research in Sicilian, Italy. I had to learn more about plants that look like rosemary to avoid confusion in my study. Did you know that there are dozens of rosemary twins? But one unique fact is that the herb barely goes unnoticed due to its smell! Its intense mint aroma fills the air in its garden, and you don’t need a test to prove it is rosemary. 

But if you are new to herbs, you should be careful not to confuse this herb with its look-alikes! Dozens of plants look like rosemary. These include sage, lavender, Winter savory,  Thyme, and Mountain mints. Others are the curry plant, dog fennel, hyssop, Canadian horseweed, and holy flax. This list is longer than you can ever imagine. Before we delve into the list, Do you know what rosemary looks like?  

How To Tell That It Is A Rosemary Plant 

Before identifying the rosemary plant, let me take you through its background. The plant’s scientific/botanical name is Salvia rosmarinus. It is a perennial and an evergreen trailing plant whose origin dates to the Mediterranean. 

Due to its strong aroma, medicinal properties, and insect-repelling properties, the rosemary is a world’s darling herb that cannot be missed in any home. To create a picture of the plant’s appearance, it is a shrub with needle-like leaves and purple/blue/lavender flowers that depend on the variety. 

The description above is too shallow and can describe many other plants, including the mints and plants that look like rosemary. You will need a photograph to identify the plant;

A Photograph Of A Rosemary Plant

If you are making comparisons with the above picture, here are the  physical features that you cannot miss out on;

  • Leaves: The first thing that will tell you it’s a rosemary plant is the appearance. Its leaves are stiff, tiny, and needle-like, with its color ranging from dark to gray-green. Also, the leaves’ undersides are white. The rosemary leaves are great for making seasoning and teas.
  • Flowers: Rosemary flowers are charming, displaying blue to purple spikes, whorls, and bells under thick trailing stems. The type of flowers depends on the variety of rosemary used. The varieties include Rosemary Mrs. Howard’s, Spice Islands, Gorizia, Tuscan Blue, and more.
  • Stem: The rosemary stem has a scaly bark, with spiky leaves branching closely throughout the stem to the top.   
  • Smell: Though smell is not a physical identifier that the plant in your garden is rosemary, you can point out its aroma. It is pungent and doesn’t go away. Many people describe the smell as piney.

Plants That Look Like Rosemary But Aren’t

In my devoted studies of rosemary herbs, I discovered many look-alikes. So, here are some plants that look like rosemary but aren’t.

1. Thyme Plant Looks Like Rosemary

My first encounter with Thyme was hilarious. I hurriedly took a photo for my herbs album, thinking it was rosemary. Both plants are from the mint and Lamiaceae family. The herbs are woody, have pointed leaves, and purplish flowers, but there are differences. 

  • Height: Rosemary is taller than Thyme. Rosemary can grow as tall as 1.8M, while Thyme grows up to 30cm.
  • Shrub: The rosemary herb is quite bushy and can expand to 1.2M. With a width of 40cm, the thyme herb is more petite. 
  • Flowers: Rosemary has smaller flowers ranging from white to deep purple petals, while Thyme has broader lip-like flowers with five petals.
  • Leaves: The rosemary leaves are longer, thinner, and needle-like, while the Thyme is more diminutive, thicker, and oval-shaped. 
  • Stem:  The rosemary stem is thinner, while the Thyme is thicker. 
  • Taste: Rosemary is pungent, bitter (mild),  resinous, and pine-tasting. The Thyme is savory and minty. 

Thyme and rosemary are like sisters. What I mean is you can substitute them with each other, but never mix these two herbs. The thyme spice is excellent for food flavoring. It is also medicinal and treats coughs and fungal and bacterial infections. 

2. Winter Savory

If you want to know what plant looks like rosemary, examine the winter savory. Both leaves are small and needle-like. They are dark green and evergreen. This herb is also a Lamiaceae and grows warmly in the Mediterranean and Southern Europe. Here are the features that set the two apart;  

  • Height: The winter savory is short at one ft., while the rosemary grows up to 6 ft.
  • Leaves: The rosemary leaves have a needlike shape, tough and waxy, while the winter savory ones are soft and elliptical.
  •  Flowers: The winter savory has white/pink flowers. In contrast, rosemary has purplish/lavender flowers.

The winter savory is ideal for flavoring red meats, game, and sausage. Also, it has medicinal value and can help relieve menstrual cramps, rheumatic pain,  indigestion, and diarrhea. Some people use it to treat sore throats.

3. Mountain Mints Look Like Rosemary

There are more than 20 species of mountain mints, including Virginia and narrowleaf. Both resemble rosemary and are perennials. They come with stiff and multiple branches and can grow up to three feet. A close examination reveals that the mountain mints have silvery needle-like foliage, thus resembling rosemary. Here is how to differentiate;

  • Flowers: These are dense, white, and may have purple spots, unlike the rosemary, which has well-pronounced lavender flowers. 
  • Stem: The mountain mints have square stems, while the rosemary stem is round. 
  • Leaves: Its leaves are oval, broader, and powdery white. Also, some species, like the Hoary Mountain mint, have hairy leaves. 
  • Smell: The mountain mints produce a spearmint scent.  

The Mountain mints are handy for garnishing and flavoring foods. Its medicinal uses include pain relief and treating menstrual issues. The mints resolve digestive tract disorders, mouth sores, flatulence, constipation, wounds, fevers, toothache, and other pains.  

4. Canadian Horseweed

Though a sunflower family plant, Canadian horseweed and rosemary herbs look alike, they grow in wet climates and most soils. You should never confuse this weed with rosemary, as it has distinct features;

  • Stem: The horseweed’s stem is hairy and ridged. 
  • Height: The plant can attain a height of 7 ft. 
  • Leaves: The premier leaf is egg-shaped, while the rest are linear, hairy, and grow thick on the stem. Also, the upper leaves are smaller and untoothed, while the lower ones arees are toothed. 
  • Flowers: These resemble the dandelion flowers and are 1cm in diameter. They are urn-shaped with a green base and tiny flower heads.
  • Smell: The weed doesn’t smell like rosemary.

Horseweed has antidiuretic properties. It promotes urination and can stop bleeding. Also, the herb helps to tighten tissues and invigorate the body. You can take it as a tonic and source of many nutrients, including proteins, calcium, and fat.  

5.  Lavender Looks Like Rosemary

A lavender field is easy to identify because of its shades of purple flowers. But during its nonflowering stage, you can easily confuse it with rosemary. The long, thin leaves resemble those of rosemary, but the smell is distinct. Other features can help you throw in the doubts;

  • Leaves: Lavender leaves are soft, while the color is silver-green and sweet-scented. The rosemary leaves are woody and have a piney smell.
  • Height: Comparing the lavender plant and rosemary, it is shorter as it grows up to three feet. The rosemary can grow up to six feet high. 
  • Stem: The lavender has vertical stems.
  • Flowers: Lavender flowers bloom from the stem and are more than the rosemary’s.

The lavender plant helps make aromatherapy oils, teas, and meat flavorings. Also, the flowers are outstanding ornamentals in gardens because of their purple color. Other uses include lavender soap, insect repellant, and antibacterial/fungal infusions.  

6. Hyssop

Almost like lavender, but more like rosemary! The hyssop is another evergreen shrub that looks like rosemary. It comes from the mint family or Lamiaceae and has a sweet scent. Besides the aromatic scent, it has a bitter taste that enhances food flavors. Hyssop is also a medicinal herb for treating coughs, colds, and gastrointestinal disorders. Other products include the hyssop soap, teas, and tonics. You can also keep dried hyssop and use it during the winter. Its physical characteristics and scent resemble the rosemary shrub. But here are the differences;

  • Leaves: Hyssop leaves are dark green and lance-shaped. They are also broader and softer than rosemary’s.  
  • Height: The hyssop plant is shorter (2 ft tall) than rosemary (6 ft tall)
  • Stem: Green and woody.
  • Flowers: These are clustered, two-lipped, tubular blue or pinkish-purple flowers. 
  • Taste: The taste is a bitter-sweet mint, unlike rosemary, which is piney.

7. Curry Plant Looks Like Rosemary

You might confuse it with rosemary if you have encountered the curry plant in its nonflowering phase. The plants that look like rosemary, including its sharp, pointed leaves, among other features. A closer examination reveals the features of a lavender plant and rosemary. But the foliage is gray-green. Before much undo, Let me highlight the differences.

  • Foliage: It is bushy and not as green as the rosemary shrub. The leaves are long, pointed, and silvery gray.
  • Flowers: Small and yellow.
  • Height: 70 cm
  • Stem: Silvery gray like the leaves.
  • Smell: Smells and tastes like curry.

The curry plant produces essential oils for aromatherapy and various culinary processes. Like the name, the plant has a curry scent and smell, which makes it great for flavoring soups, veggies, and meat delicacies. Some people use the plant as an herb to treat various discomforts such as high blood pressure, abdominal discomforts, diarrhea, and other infections.  

8. Dog Fennel

Though an Asteraceae, the Dog fennel is among the poisonous plants that look like rosemary. The weed gives forth towering leaves that produce a strong scent when you crush them. Though the herb produces a scent and is appealing, it is poisonous to humans. Even so, dog fennel is essential in making fungicides and insecticides and treating reptile and insect bites. Keep your livestock from consuming the dog fennel, as it can be poisonous to ruminants, too. 

From a distance, you might get mixed up with this herb. However, there are significant structures between the two. So, how can you tell it is a dog fennel weed and not rosemary?

  • Foliage: The dog fennel has bush foliage.   
  • Leaves: The leaves are hairless, while the margins are serrated. Also, their structures have a fine dissection, and the arrangements are alternate. Dog fennel leaves have no hair.  
  • Stem: The stems are crowded, hairy, soft, and easy to break when young. However, it becomes stubborn and woody with age.
  • Flower: The dog fennel flowers are greenish-white. 
  • Growth: This weed grows more aggressively than rosemary. It may not be easy to eliminate if it spreads in your firm.
  • Height: The dog fennel can grow taller than rosemary. Its maximum height is 3 meters. 

9. Holy Flax

Holy flax is among the weeds that look like rosemary. Without the flowers, the holy flax or  

Santolina rosmarinifolia looks like the herb. The shrub is excellent for hedges and gardens as it blooms well and is drought-tolerant. Some guides refer to holy flax as the gray santolina or lavender cotton. Descriptions that distance the herb from rosemary are;

  • Leaves: Silver-gray, rough, and evergreen leaves. 
  • Flowers: The flowers are button-like bright yellow and rise atop the stalks.
  • Smell: Musky fragrance.
  • Height: The holy flax grows to 2′ tall and spreads about 3′ wide.
  • Stem: Semi-woody and shorter than rosemary (2 ft tall).  

There are various uses of holy flax. The plant repels insects and, therefore, a great hedge around your garden. In the Mediterranean savories, the holy flax leaves are a great flavoring. They add an olive flavor to cocktails and other dishes. Also, the flowers make herbal tea.

10. Russian Sage Looks like Rosemary

Finally, we have the Russian sage! Like other Lamianacea plants, this evergreen is a plant that looks like rosemary but isn’t. The herb also grows widely in the central Asian climate, among other regions. Also, the sage comes in many varieties, with the characteristic of lavender-purple flowers, so it is easy to confuse it with the lavender plant. 

  • Height: The Russian sage grows to a maximum height of 3 feet. 
  • Flowers: The flowers are tubular and rich purple, more than the rosemary.
  • Leaves: gray.
  • Stem: Woody and silvery gray.
  • Leaves: gray-gree, square and elongated leaves.

The Russian sage is ornamental and medicinal. It makes strong teas for relaxation and relieving stomach pain and other disorders. 

Final Thoughts

There are a dozen plants that look like rosemary. To avoid confusing them, you need to know the differences. We went to the fields to help you get rid of that fear. Our guide has adequate pictures and details regarding most weeds that look like rosemary. The list is not exhaustive, but if you are a veteran gardener, you can identify ten plants that resemble this popular herb. Have a thriving herb garden.

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