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Wild Rice

Wild Rice

Genus: Zizania

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Plant

Description

Three species of wild rice grow in the United States: Zizania aquatic, Zizania palustris, and Zizania texana. These aquatic plants grow in the soft substrate of shallow water, particularly in slow moving streams. The grain of the rice provides food for migratory waterfowl and a number of other birds and animals. Wild rice plants can grow to be 10 feet tall.

Range

The U.S. species of wild rice plants can be found in Canada, parts of the Great Lakes, Texas, Florida, and the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Wild rice grows in streams, river, or lakes. They prefer shallow water with a slow current and muddy substrate.

Life History

Wild rice is an annual plant that cross-pollinates, meaning the male and female flowers are separate and pollen must be transferred from one to the other. The female flowers on a cluster usually emerge before the males and are then pollinated by the male flowers from other clusters.

Conservation

Wild rice species continue to suffer from habitat loss. The Texas species (Zizania texana) is listed as endangered and is at risk of extinction.

Fun Fact

About 99 percent of cultivated wild rice grown in the United States comes from Minnesota and California.

Sources

Alternative Field Crops Manual, University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota

Native Wild Rice Coalition

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

Zizania, EOL.org

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