Fears about suspected marijuana plant in Boardman go up in smoke

By Josh Stipanovich



Was the plastic plant in the plastic pot actually, um, plastic pot?

When Richard Poptelariter of Howland stopped at the Shell gas station on the corner of Western Reserve Road and South Avenue, he observed what he believed was a plastic marijuana plant next to the pump.

“I have a 4-year-old daughter,” the outraged Poptelariter said. “I don’t want my daughters growing up to see marijuana.”

Enter Ellen Speicher, assistant horticulture director at Fellows Riverside Gardens. She took a look at one of the plastic leaves and said it’s highly unlikely the leaf is marijuana.

The jagged leaves of five and six and seven on the plastic plants actually resembled leaves from a coral bark Japanese maple leaf.

“Often, when you see these at a gas station, they’re trying to make it look like an ivy,” Speicher said. “It doesn’t really look that much like marijuana. Marijuana actually is larger, and it has more dissection on the edges of the leaf.”

“I think they’re trying to mimic a Japanese maple,” she added.

She’s right.

A spokesperson for Truck World Inc., one of several companies that own Shell gas stations throughout the nation, said these fire-retardant Japanese maple trees were installed there several years ago to prevent customers from backing into the gas pumps. “They act as a bumper guard.”

Speicher said, however, that this isn’t the first time she’s dealt with this situation because some Japanese maple leaves tend to closely resemble marijuana.

She said the janitor at a previous job she worked came across a leaf on the break-room floor that he also believed was marijuana.

“It was a Japanese maple leaf,” she said.

Boardman police Sgt. Michael Hughes took a ride to examine the fire-friendly plants Friday morning to see for himself and determined it was not marijuana. But he can see why it could be mistaken for marijuana.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, [marijuana] is a seven-leaf plant,” Hughes said. “Believe me, [the fake plants] look just like marijuana plants, but there has to be seven [stems],” Hughes said.

He said even if the plants were fake marijuana, police couldn’t take any action because there’s no law against such fake greenery.

“But they did look like marijuana plants,” Poptelariter said after he was informed of the actual nature of the plastic plants.

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