South Dakota Native Plant Research
Poaceae : Zizania palustris

Poaceae : Zizania palustris


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Family Name


Common Name

Northern wild rice

Native American Name

Dakota: Psi; Lakota: psíŋ


Zizania palustris is an annual, solitary-stemmed grass that can grow to over 2 m tall. The erect culms are round, hollow and smooth except at the nodes where they can be hairy. There are both basal and alternat leaves on the culm. Early leaves float on the water’s surface. The leaf blades are rolled in the bud and flat at maturity, 5-100 cm long and 5-35 mm wide. The leaf sheaths are open, smooth with hairs at the collar and base, with a membranous ligule 7-20 mm long. the inflorescence is a much-branched panicle, 15-60 cm long, with male (staminate) spikelets below and female (pistilate) spikelets above. The branches are initially erect with the staminate ones spreading or drooping at maturity. The male spikelets are reddish in color, with 6 stamens that are 4-6 mm long. The female spikelets are paler, 12-15 mm long with a terminal awn 2.5-6.5 cm long. Both the staminate and pistilate spikelets lack glumes (bracts). The fruit is a dark, slender cylindrical grain up to 30 mm long and 2 mm wide. Northern wild rice blooms in July and August on the margins of streams lakes and ponds along the eastern and southern borders of South Dakota.

Synonyms: Zizania aquatica var. interior, Z. interior

Additional Notes

Northern wild rice is a staple for many of the regions indigenous peoples. It grows in clean water and has a striking appearance along the edge of a pond or other water feature in a native garden. Wild rice grows in about 15-90 cm of water, with 40-50 cm being optimal. The grains are nutritious and tasty. Not only are they good food, but they attract waterfowl.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect seeds in the fall when the seedheads will shatter when sharply struck.

Germination: Plant seeds in the fall in shallow water and allow them to over-winter under the ice.

Soils: Silty loamy to sandy muds.

Light: Full sun.

Water: Clear, slow moving water provides the best seed production.

Poaceae : Zizania palustris