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Wild Rice

Zizania aquatica

Wild rice forms colonies in tidal and non-tidal freshwater marshes. (Virginia Native Plant Society Pocahontas Chapter)
Wild rice forms colonies in tidal and non-tidal freshwater marshes. (Virginia Native Plant Society Pocahontas Chapter)

Wild rice is a native annual grass with feathery flowers on top of a tall, round stem. It grows in freshwater marshes throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

Appearance:

Wild rice has a round, hollow, upright stem and can grow to 10 feet tall. Its long, flat leaves have rough, toothed edges and can grow up to 16 inches in length and 2 inches wide. Immature plants have long, ribbon-like underwater leaves. The flower head has two sections: a feathery, upright female flower at the top of the stem and dangling male flowers on branches just below. Flowers bloom June through August.

Habitat:

Forms colonies in tidal and non-tidal freshwater marshes and along streams. Grows in shallow water.

Range:

Grows in the upper parts of tributaries such as the Choptank, Patuxent, Potomac and York rivers.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Wild rice spreads by seeds only. After blooming, female flower matures into a seed head full of rice grains. New seedlings grow in spring.

Other Facts:

  • Wild rice is an important source of food for birds, including waterfowland red-winged blackbirds
  • The grain of wild rice is edible. Cleaned grains are usually boiled, but can also be popped or ground into a flour.

Sources and Additional Information:




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