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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Aquatic and Wetland Vascular Plants of the Northern Great Plains

63. Poaceae, the Grass Family

29. Zizania L.

1. Zizania aquatica L. -- Annual wildrice

Stout annual 5-20 dm tall, with rather fleshy yellowish-orange roots; culms solitary or few, robust. Leaves flat, 5-25 mm wide, smooth; sheaths puberulent at the collar, otherwise glabrous; ligule hyaline, striate, entire or lacerate, 5-15 mm long. Panicle elongate to pyramidal, 20-40 cm long, the lower staminate portion ultimately expanded, the upper pistillate portion remaining contracted. Spikelets unisexual, terete, the pistillate above the staminate in the panicle; glumes absent; staminate florets purple, 6-12 mm long, the lemmas linear, acuminate or short-awned, strongly 3-nerved, hispid, thin-textured; pistillate florets purplish or light green, the lemmas subulate, 10-14(20) mm long and tapering to a slender awn 2-4 cm long, 3-nerved, hispid, chartaceous; palea about as long as the lemma, 3-nerved. Grain dark brown to black, slender and elongate, about as long as the body of the lemma, early deciduous. Late Jul--early Sep. Shallow water or mud of streams, rivers, oxbow swamps and marshes, where water is fresh; occasional from e ND to e and n NE; (e Que. and N.S. to Man., s to FL, LA and NE).

This plant is the source of the commercial wildrice. In the northern Great Plains local populations are generally not large enough to serve this purpose, but wildrice harvesting is practiced in Minnesota where extensive areas in marshes and around lakes may be dominated by the plant. The grain is an excellent food for waterfowl.

GIF- Species Photo/Drawing

Zizania aquatica (from Hitchcock 1950)
GIF- Distribution Map

Map key

Previous Section -- Sphenopholis obtusata (Michx.) Scribn. -- Prairie wedgegrass
Return to Family -- Poaceae - The Grass Family

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