Indian Rice, also called water rice, Minnesota rice, and water oats (zizania aquatica, the generic name being the ancient Greek one for some wild grain), an annual aquatic grass, with stems from 3 to 10 ft. high, growing in the swampy margins of streams, where it frequently forms the sole vegetation of extensive tracts. The genus belongs to the same tribe with rice, but differs in having separated flowers, the staminate and pistillate being upon the same plant; the lower branches of the ample panicle are spreading, and bear staminate flowers, which have six stamens, and fall soon after shedding their pollen; the upper branches, with the pistillate flowers, are erect; the pedicels to the flowers club-shaped; glumes rudimentary; lower palet long-awned; the grain slender, cylindrical, about half an inch long, and purplish. The seeds of this plant afford abundant food for birds, especially water fowl; they are a favorite food of the reed bird, and when the grain is ripe the birds are shot in great numbers, especially along the Delaware river. The grain was formerly an important article of food with the Indians of the northwest, who collected their winter supplies by pushing their canoes through the thickets, and shaking off the grain, which falls when ripe with the slightest touch into the canoes.
Every few years there has been an attempt to bring this plant into notice as a valuable cereal; but were there no-other obstacle to its cultivation, the remarkable readiness with which the grain drops would prevent its coming into use. As a food the grain, according to Dr. Bachman, ranks with oats, an estimate which probably refers to the taste rather than to nutritious qualities. Recently the plant has been mentioned in English journals as a highly valuable paper stock, and some very coarse paper has been made from it; if the experiment should prove successful, the supply in our northwestern states and in Canada would be found practically inexhaustible. - Another species, Z. mi-liacea, is common southward; it differs from the foregoing in being a perennial, is somewhat smaller, and has the staminate and pistillate flowers intermixed, and not on separate branches of the panicle; the grain is ovate.
Indian Rice (Zizania aquatica). Panicle, and a separate Pistillate and Staminate Flower.