The seed biology of two ecologically and genetically important sympatric wild rice species from northern Australia was compared - perennial Oryza rufipogon Griff. and annual Oryza meridionalis N.Q.Ng. The aim was to determine mechanisms of dormancy exhibited at seed shed and to identify factors that trigger or inhibit germination. This information was used to investigate the ecology of in situ Oryza populations in introduced para grass swards (Urochloa mutica (Forssk.) T.Q. Nguyen) and to understand interactions between the two sympatric Oryza species. Primary dormancy in the two species is similar, namely, non-deep physiological dormancy, determined by external maternal structures and broken by warm temperature treatments equivalent to dry season soil temperatures. Light quality, smoke water, gibberellic acid and nitric acid treatments had minor influences on germination. Changes to the soil profile and aboveground biomass structure due to swards of U. mutica significantly affected emergence of O. meridionalis. Thus the influence of soil temperature explains the results of previous field studies in which biomass or litter on the soil surface prevented germination. This has implications for biodiversity management on monsoonal floodplains of northern Australia, where introduced pasture species produce greater biomass than native grasslands, reduce soil temperatures and are displacing native rices. There were differences between the Oryza species - dormancy was more quickly broken in annual O. meridionalis, reflecting the reduced need for investment in seed bank persistence for annual species in annually inundated and climatically reliable wetlands.