Zizania aquatica

Common name: Wild Rice Family: Gramineae
Author: L. Botanical references: 43, 200
Known Hazards: None known
Range: Eastern N. America – New Brunswick to Manitoba, south to Florida and Texas.
Habitat: Shallow waters of rivers and lakes, preferring a slow moving current20, 43.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 5 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 0
Other Common Names: From various places around the Web, may not be correct. See below.
Annual Wildrice P,L, Chiang Ts’Ao E, Chiao Mi E, Chiao Pai E, Chiao Ts’Ao E, Indian Wild Rice B, Ku E, Ku Mi E, Ku Sun E, Wild Rice H,
Epithets: From a Dictionary of Botanical Epithets
aquatica = in water;
Systematics: From a UDSA Plants Database
Order: Cyperales. Renamed to Poaceae — Grass family
Other Range Info: From the Ethnobotany Database

Physical Characteristics

Annual growing to 3.5m by 0.2m at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind. We rate it 5/5 for edibility and 0/5 for medicinal use.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It can grow in water.

Habitats and Possible Locations


Edible Uses

Seed; Stem.

Seed – cooked

257. It can be used as a cereal. A staple food of the native North American Indians95, 159, the long black delicious grain is eaten as an expensive gourmet meal183. It is used in the same ways that rice is used and is sometimes added to rice dishes to impart its subtle flavour. The seed can also be ground into a meal and used in making bread, thickening soups etc183. It is a very rich source of riboflavin and is also rich in niacin160. The base of the culms is used as a vegetable74.

Medicinal Uses

None known

Other Uses

None known

Cultivation details

Easily grown in water up to 60cm deep, it tolerates water up to 1 metre deep though it prefers growing in water 10 – 20cm deep136. It dislikes stagnant water20. A very ornamental plant1, it grows, flowers and fruits well in the lake and lily pond at Kew136. Plants can self-sow in Britain, but the seed tends to germinate too late to mature a fresh crop of seed in this country, so the plant gradually dies out136. It would possibly maintain itself in areas such as the Isle of Wight, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk136. It is a very hardy plant, the seed survives being frozen in ice136. Plants grown at a 30cm square spacing can produce 20 or more flowering shoots136. Often collected from the wild, this plant is now being cultivated commercially for its edible seed183. It is considered a gourmet’s delicacy and is sold in many parts of the world, usually in health food shops and usually at a very high price136. Plants require protection from wild fowl otherwise they will devour the young growth136. Plants are occasionally sown by lakes and rivers in Europe to attract wild fowl50.


Seed – it must not be allowed to dry out or it will quickly lose its viability, usually within 4 weeks136. Store collected seed in jars of water in a cool place such as the salad compartment of a fridge. Sow the seed in spring. Immerse the pots so that they are covered by about 5cm of water. It is best to sow 2 seeds per 7cm pot in a greenhouse in order to get early germination and a better chance of a crop136. Pot on as required and plant out about 30cm square in May, by which time the plants should be 20 – 30cm tall136. Larger quantities can be sown in shallow boxes and plunged into the pond etc in May.