This water-loving grass produces a nutty-flavored seed that is eaten by humans and waterfowl. Once found throughout Minnesota, it has been an important part of the lives and culture of American Indians who have lived in the Great Lakes region long before the arrival of European immigrants. Today it is Minnesota's official state grain.
General description: The wild rice plant looks like grass growing in water. In late summer, when its seeds mature, it looks like oats or wheat.
Size: When mature, wild rice stalks stand several feet above the surface of the water.
Color: The wild rice plant is green during the growing season. Mature seeds are brown.
Wild rice is an annual plant, meaning that it dies in the fall. Seeds that fell in autumn take root in spring under water, and then the shoot grows to above the surface. Starting in late August, the seeds ripen gradually from the top down and fall into the water. Because it is an annual, people who harvest the plant in the wild let some seeds fall into the water so wild rice populations can survive.
Habitat and range
Wild rice grows in shallow water, usually less than 3 feet deep. It can be found in Minnesota in rivers and on sandy lake bottoms. Once native throughout Minnesota, today it grows mainly in the central and northern part of the state.
Population and management
Populations of wild rice have been gradually declining for many years in Minnesota. In recent years the decline has become more rapid. Scientists are now trying to learn more about how wild rice grows and why it's becoming less common. The Minnesota DNR and various American Indian governments manage wild rice and regulate wild rice harvest.
The seeds of wild rice contain an antioxidant that some people believe might help reduce their chances of getting cancer.