Many weeds resemble commercial cabbages. A number of these plants are from the same Brassica family as cultivated cabbage. Some are used as ornamentals, while others are wild-growing remnants of ancient, cultivated crops. Cabbagelike plants are found in many environments, including ponds, forests and seasides.
Wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea) is native to European coastal regions and includes a wide variety of cabbagelike species. As a biennial, the plants grow for 2 years before producing seeds and dying. The thick leaves form a rosette and may be curly or smooth. The flower stalk can reach 7-feet tall and produces yellow flowers in the wild. A closely related wild plant is sea kale (Crambe maritima), which produces glossy, curled leaves similar to cabbage. This plant grows wild in cool, coastal areas and is widespread throughout the British Isles. Sea kale reaches 22 feet tall and produces edible shoots each spring.
Ground Cover Plants
Bergenia is a plant genus with leathery, cabbagelike leaves. It is sometimes called a pigsqueak because of the sound the shiny leaves make when rubbed together. Easy to grow, it works well as a ground cover plant for flowerbed borders. It can out compete unwanted weeds. Although its leaves are green for most of the year, they turn purple or red in fall and winter, making it resemble both green and purple cabbage.
Other Cabbagelike Plants
Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is not a pleasant weed when bruised, as it emits an unpleasant aroma. It exhibits large, cabbagelike leaves as it emerges. They have a texture and appearance similar to edible cabbage. The plant looks different in spring when it begins flowering. It produces a spathe, which is a pod that holds its flowers. The spathe is a brownish-purple color. This plant thrives naturally in wet environments, including along springs and marshes and in wet, woody areas. Water cabbage (Pistia stratiotes), also known as water lettuce, looks like commercial green cabbage. The leaves are thick, leathery, ribbed and cabbagelike. Water lettuce is a floating plant and is invasive in aquatic places in the United States, interfering with boats and fishing.
Ornamental cabbages and kale are edible, like commercial varieties within their family. They are grown for their distinctive visual displays. Frilly leaves are often seen on both types of ornamentals, especially kale. Ornamental cabbage exhibits contrasting colors, especially green and purple. They grow best in full sun and eventually produce a flowering stalk that also has ornamental value.