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Wild rice: When is it time to harvest, when is it mature?

Manoomin, psin, wild rice, rice grass, Zizania palustris, Zizania aquatica, all names for the plant relative who is maturing and getting ready to harvest under the Manoominke Giizis (moon of making wild rice), according to the Anishinaabe of Thr Great Lakes region.

I shot some videos to explain when not to harvest (such as the banner image above ) in the Muskegon River Watershed.

This plant has some things in common with maize-corn, and some Things very different and unique to the Zizania species of North America (all 3 species).

Maize has tassels or male flowers on top of the plant, which will never become grains. One has to look lower on the plant in the axils for the female flowers, with their silks hanging out (stigma and styles). The opposite is true for wild rice, with showy male flowers bright yellow located down low, and female flowers upon them at the stem top. The female flowers open a white fuzzy tuft or stigma on manoomin, and that leads to the part on top that becomes the grains or minun.

When male flowers are seen, please do not harvest wild rice and stay out of the rice beds. You might knock the pollen flowers off the plants, and limit pollination of the female flowers where the grains form. Observe from a distance, and take note of how many plants are flowering, what color the stems are, and make a guess at when plants will be ripe for harvest (often 2-4 weeks after male flowers are visible).

If pollination does not happen, it will result in "ghost rice" where the outer husk-sheath and awn form but no seed or embro forms, leaving white, air filled ghost rice. Storms can cause this, as can humans disturbing unripe rice populations.

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