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Oryza glaberrima (African rice)

African rice is a staple food in West Africa prized for its delicate taste, its ability to withstand flooding and its resistance to pests and diseases.
Herbarium specimen of Oryza glaberrima

Detail of a herbarium specimen of Oryza glaberrima

Species information

Scientific name: 

Oryza glaberrima Steud.

Common name: 

African rice

Conservation status: 

Widespread in cultivation.


African rice grows best on fertile alluvial soils although it tolerates low soil fertility and can produce higher yields than Asian rice on alkaline and phosphorus-deficient soils. Floating rice is planted on loam or clay soils.

Key Uses: 

Food, medicine, livestock feed, ritual.


Genus: Oryza

About this species

There are only two species of cultivated rice in the world: Asian rice (Oryza sativa) and African rice (Oryza glaberrima). African rice is native to West Africa, where it is cultivated as a foodcrop. It is known for its hardiness and its ability to compete with weeds, pests, infertile soils and human neglect. However, increasingly African rice is being replaced by the introduced Asian varieties of Oryza sativa, which produce a higher yield than African rice, shatter less easily and have a softer grain that is easier to mill.

African rice is still an important crop for small-scale farmers who grow it for its nutty flavour and other culinary qualities. It is also used in a ritualistic context and as a treatment in African traditional medicine.


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