Wild Rice

Zizania aquatica

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • 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.

  • Status

    Stable

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.

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.

Did You Know?

  • 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

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • 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.

  • Status

    Stable