Pictured above: Zizania palustris

This genus is one of the few true aquatic grasses. These are tall grasses with broad leaves and large panicles. Spikelets are 1-flowered and unisexual with staminate florets pendulous on the lower branches and carpellate florets stiffly erect on the upper branches. Glumes are absent and lemmas on both sexes are awned.

There is 1 species in MN and it is native.

Common species:
Zizania palustris (zy zane' ee ah pah lus' tris)

  • Synonyms: Z. aquatica (misapplied to our species, occurs along the Atlantic coast and the lower St. Lawrence Seaway)
  • Common names: northern wild rice; Lakota: psi; Ojibway: mahnomen
  • Origin and habitat: Native; marshes, slow-moving streams, quiet waters of lakes
  • Identifying characters: Surprisingly, this is an annual species that begins to die before the growing season is finished. New stems and leaves are flaccid on the surface of lakes and streams in early summer before becoming erect in late summer. Leaf blades are narrowed to an awn-like tip that is 1.5-9 mm long and are pubescent on both surfaces near the collar. On lower blades the under-surface of the midvein and adjacent tissue is often raised to form a broad rib. Ligules are quite large, 4-10 mm long. Staminate lemmas have a long apex while carpellate lemmas have a short awn.
  • Comments: This is an important crop in the north central region of the state, although California surpasses our yield. It is harvested both from cultivated paddies and from wild populations. Extremely important to American Indians, wild rice is a nutritious food source as well as having great religious value.


Zizania map

Additional species in Minnesota: 

Copyright 2002, A.F. Cholewa, J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota / No portion of this guide may be duplicated without written permission of author.