Oryza sativa Linn. Gramineae. Rice.
Tropical Asia. This important grain, which supplies food for a greater number of human beings than are fed on the produce of any other known plant, is supposed to be of Asiatic origin. Unger says it is indigenous to further India and the Isle of Sunda. Barth says it grows wild in central Africa, and recent travelers mention the plant as growing wild in South America. Rice had been introduced into China 3000 years before Christ. Even in the time of Strabo, rice was cultivated in Babylon, Khuzistan and Syria. The Arabians brought it to Sicily. It was found by Alexander's expedition under cultivation in Hindustan but the account of Theophrastus seems to imply that the living plant continued unknown in the Mediterranean countries. Rice was known, however, to Celsus, Pliny, Dioscorides and Galen. According to some, rice was known in Lombardy in the tenth century but Targioni-Tozzetti says that in the year 1400 it was still known in Italy only as an article of import from the East. Its cultivation was introduced into Piedmont and Lombardy in the end of the fifteenth, or commencement of the sixteenth, century, either directly from India by the Portuguese or through Spain and Naples by the Spaniards. It was not cultivated in fields in Lombardy until 1522.
Rice was introduced into Virginia by Sir William Berkeley in 1647, who caused half a bushel of seed to be sown, and the yield was fifteen bushels of excellent rice. This grain is stated to have been first brought into Charleston, South Carolina, by a Dutch brig from Madagascar in 1694, the captain of which left about a peck of paddy with Governor Smith, who distributed it among his friends for cultivation. Another account is that Ashby sent a bag of seed rice, 100 pounds, from which in 1698 sixty tons were shipped to England. The culture of rice was introduced into Louisiana by the Company of the West in 1718. Upland, or mountain rice, was introduced into Charleston, South Carolina, from Canton, in 1772. Father Baegert, 1751-68, speaks of rice as nourishing in California.
The varieties of rice are almost endless. At the Madras exhibition of 1857, one exhibitor sent 190 varieties from Tanjore; another sent 65 from Travancore; 50 were received from Chingleput; 50 from Paghot; and from these 107 varieties of paddy were selected as distinct. In Moon's Catalogue of Ceylon Plants, no less than 161 varieties are enumerated as growing in Ceylon, and Carey describes 40 varieties in Coromandel, all well known to native farming. The most general divisions are into upland rice, valley rice, summer rice and spring rice. The finest rice in the world is that raised in North and South Carolina. Rice in the husk is called paddy.