Wild Rice

Zizania aquatica

Richard Carter, Valdosta State University

Wild Rice is a large grass that grows in water. It can grow up to 9 feet tall. Its stems are thick and spongy.

Wild Rice leaf blades grow up to 4 feet long and 2 inches wide.

This plant is usually found in shallow water (less than 3 feet deep) along the edges of rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and marshes. It does not do well in fast-moving water.

Wild Rice is an annual, which means it only lives for one year. The seeds it releases will grow into next year's plants.

 

Wisconsin State Herbarium, Merel R. Black

A new Wild Rice plant begins growing in May. The first leaves grow underwater. Next, a new set of leaves grows and floats on the surface of the water. The last set of leaves grows stiff and upright out of the water.

Wild Rice flowers in mid-July and August. Flowers are tiny and grow on spikelets. They are usually white or purple.

In late August, seeds turn brown and fall in the water. Many of the seeds will be eaten by ducks and other animals, but some will survive until Spring when they will take root in the mud and grow into new plants.

Wisconsin State Herbarium, Hugh H. Iltis

Steve Hurst, ARS Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory

Animals that eat Wild Rice seeds include Mallard, Wood Duck, American Black Duck, other ducks, Canada Goose, Bobolink, Sora, Song Sparrow, Fish Crow, Northern Bobwhite, and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Muskrats and White-tailed Deer eat the whole plant. Common Carp will uproot and eat young plants.

Bumblebees and some flies eat Wild Rice pollen from the flowers, but these insects do not help the plant by pollinating it. Wild Rice is able to pollinate itself.

Wild Rice provides good cover for ducks and other water animals.

University of Florida, Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

Wild Rice does not compete well with other water plants, but some associates it is found with include cattails, bulrushes, sedges, pondweeds, Poison Sumac, Black Willow, and Pickerelweed.

Relationships in Nature:

Animals Using as Food Source

Animals Using as Shelter

Associations With Other Plants

OTHER

Mallard

Mallard

Common Cattail

Common Cattail EC

Wood Duck

Beaver

Tussock Sedge

Common Reed EC

Canada Goose

Eastern Painted Turtle

Black Willow

Red-winged Blackbird

Wood Duck

Pickerelweed

Northern Bobwhite

Channel Catfish

Long-leaf Pondweed

Muskrat

Canada Goose

Marsh Bulrush

White-tailed Deer

Northern Water Snake

Golden Northern Bumble Bee

White-tailed Deer

Common Carp

Water Mite

Red-winged Blackbird

Raccoon

CommonWater Strider

Green Darner

Green Hydra

Fragile Forktail

Large Diving Beetle

Golden Shiner

Crayfish

Black Crappie

Eastern Newt

Relationship to Humans:

Wild Rice is edible and is said to have a "nutty" flavor. It is often eaten with chicken or in soups. American Indians have been using it as a food source for many years. The seeds contain an antioxidant, which is a chemical believed to reduce the chances of cancer. People are also planting more and more Wild Rice to try to improve habitat for ducks and other animals.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Plant
DIVISION
Magnoliophyta
CLASS
Liliopsida
ORDER
Cyperales
FAMILY
Poaceae
GENUS
Zizania
SPECIES
Zizania aquatica

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