Zizania aquatica L.

southern wild rice

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Southern wild rice is found along fresh to brackish river shores and shallow water of lakes and rivers. It may form huge monocultures, and is sometimes planted, as it is a significant source of food for waterfowl. It was an important element of the diets of many Native American tribes.

Habitat

Brackish or salt marshes and flats, fresh tidal marshes or flats, lacustrine (in lakes or ponds), riverine (in rivers or streams), shores of rivers or lakes

Characteristics

Habitat
  • aquatic
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
3–72 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
5–24 mm
Glume relative length
NA
Awn on glume
NA
One or more florets
there is one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
10–100 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
5–30 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther number
    0–6
    Awn on glume
    NA
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret number
    1
    Floret types within spikelet
    all the florets within a spikelet are similar
    Glume awn length
    0 mm
    Glume keel
    NA
    Glume relative length
    NA
    Glume shape
    NA
    Glume veins
    NA
    Glumes per spikelet
    0
    Inflorescence arrangement
    • the plant has two types of spikelets with different reproductive structures
    • the spikelets are uniform
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    the inflorescence axis is straight
    Inflorescence branch roughness
    the inflorescence branches are smooth or only slightly rough
    Inflorescence branches
    the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
    Inflorescence crowding
    the panicle is somewhat to very spread out, with clearly-evident branches
    Inflorescence length
    200–1200 mm
    Inflorescence length to width ratio
    2.4–4
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the spikelets are borne on stalks or on branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    the inflorescence is branched, and the branches do NOT both grow from the same side of the plant AND look like spikes
    Inflorescence width
    50–500 mm
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn coiled
    the lemma awn is straight or twisted, but not coiled one half turn
    Lemma awn length
    10–100 mm
    Lemma awn number
    the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma awn orientation
    • the awn of the lemma is straight
    • the awn of the lemma on dried or older plants is curved or bent outwards
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is flat or rounded if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma surface
    the surface of the lemma is relatively smooth (not counting any longitudinal veins or hairs)
    Lemma tip
    the lemma tip is a simple point, with or without an awn (long narrow extension ending in a point)
    Lemma tip shape
    • the lemma tip tapers to a long narrow point (it may or may not also have an awn or teeth at the tip)
    • the lemma tip tapers to a narrow point (it may or may not also have an awn or teeth at the tip)
    Lemma vein number
    5
    Lemma vein orientation
    the veins on the lemma come together near the tip
    Lower glume length
    0 mm
    Lower glume relative length
    NA
    One or more florets
    there is one floret per spikelet
    Palea length
    10–25 mm
    Palea relative length
    palea is one half to fully as long as lemma
    Reproductive system
    the plant has some flowers with carpels, and other flowers with stamens, but no flowers with both (monoecious)
    Spikelet axis tip
    there is no extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet disintegration
    NA
    Spikelet length
    5–24 mm
    Spikelet number per node
    0
    Spikelet pedicel
    the spikelets have pedicels
    Spikelet pedicel length
    1–6 mm
    Spikelet position
    the spikelets emerge from both the upper and lower halves of the inflorescence branches
    Spikelet shape
    • the spikelets are lanceolate (lance-shaped, widest below the middle and tapering narrowly to the ends) in profile
    • the spikelets are oblong (rectangular, but with rounded ends) in profile
    Spikelet width
    0.4–1 mm
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Tip of glume
    NA
    Upper glume length
    0 mm
    Upper glume relative length
    NA
    Upper glume shape
    NA
  • Fruits or seeds
    Seed length
    6–22 mm
  • Growth form
    Horizontal rooting stem
    no
    Lifespan
    the plant lives only a single year or less
    Rhizomes
    no
    Roots
    there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Basal leaves
    the plant has few or no leaves coming from the base of the flowering stem
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves do not have auricles
    Leaf blade base
    the leaf is tapered gradually to the base
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section, or slightly folded or rolled inwards
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade is hairless, but it may have tiny prickles that give it a sand-papery feel
    Leaf blade length
    Up to 125 cm
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    Leaf blade width
    3–72 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    5–30 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane
    Leaf margin glands
    there are no glands along the edges of the leaf blade
    Leaf sheath closed around stem
    the margins of the leaf sheath are overlapping and not fused together except in the basal half (or less)
    Leaf sheath hair type
    there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath hairs
    there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
  • Place
    Habitat
    • aquatic
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • brackish or salt marshes and flats
    • fresh tidal marshes or flats
    • in lakes or ponds
    • in rivers or streams
    • shores of rivers or lakes
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Hairs at nodes
    the stem nodes are hairless or they have very sparse hairs
    Plant height
    200–500 cm
    Roots at lower stem nodes
    no
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow singly or a few together (they may form diffuse colonies)

Wetland Status

Occurs only in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: OBL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. aquatica

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Rhode Island
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), concern (uncertain) (code: C*)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Zizania palustris:
upper portion of inflorescence (i.e., the carpellate portion) with tightly ascending branches and abortive spikelets (i.e., those that are empty during fruiting) 0.6-2.6 mm wide (vs. Z. aquatica, with the upper portion of the inflorescence with loosely ascending branches and abortive spikelets 0.4-1 mm wide).

Synonyms

  • Ceratochaete aquatica (L.) Lunell
  • Zizania aquatica var. subbrevis Boivin

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Zizania

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our variety is Zizania aquatica L. var. aquatica.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Zizania aquatica L. var. aquatica N

southern wild rice. Ceratochaete aquatica (L.) Lunell; Zizania aquatica L. var. subbrevis Boivin • CT, MA, ME, RI, VT. Fresh to brackish-tidal river shores, shallow water of lakes and inland rivers. Some populations of this species have been intentionally introduced as food for waterfowl.