Linum usitatissimum - Common Flax

Family: Linaceae (Flax family) [E-flora]

Habitat / Range "Mesic to dry roadsides, fields and waste places in the lowland zone; rare on SE Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands, and the lower mainland; introduced from Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora]


Along with barley, flax is the oldest known food (Zohary and Hopf,2000), although in the Bible, it is mentioned only in connection with linen, the fabric produced from the strong fibers in the stem. It is an annual with sky blue flowers. To obtain the fibers, the flax is soaked in water until a kind of controlled decay, termed retting, releases the fibers from the softer surrounding tissues. The fibers are then washed and dried. Alternatively, the bundled stems can be allowed to ret with moisture from dew. Although flax was a well-known crop in ancient times (e.g., Abbo et al.,2009)it is no longer commercially planted in the Levant. [BiblePlants]

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food. Seed (Fresh weight)

Notes: "The figures given here are the median of a range given in the report. Iron had an especially large range, from 2.7 - 43.8." [PFAF]


"Prefers a light well-drained moderately fertile humus-rich soil in a sunny sheltered position[200]. Plants grow best in a well-drained, loamy soil, those overlying a clay subsoil produce the best results[269]. They prefer a pH in the range of 5 - 7[269]. Very light highly fertile soils are not desirable as they produce tall rank growth tending to lodge[269]. Plants are more sensitive to salt than most field crops[269]. Prefers a cool moist climate during the growing season, dry weather making the plants short and woody[61, 269]. A very greedy plant, depleting the soil[4, 123] and requiring a rich, well prepared soil if it is to do well[123]. Plants help to break up organic matter and prepare the soil for following crops[201]. Cultivars selected for seed production succeed under a fairly wide range of conditions, but those selected for fibre production require abundant moisture and cool weather during the growing season, and warm dry weather during harvesting, especially where water-retting is practiced[269]. The crop requires 15 - 20cm of rainfall if spread evenly over growing season, with 2.5 cm falling just before or after planting[269]. The plant needs a relatively long ripening period between flowering and harvesting. Warm, dry weather is desirable at the heading stage to cause plants to branch and produce seed; after vegetative growth, dry weather is required for curing the seed[269]. Linseed has a very long history of cultivation in temperate climates with evidence to show that it was being grown in Egypt over 5,000 years ago[269]. It fell into almost complete disuse in Britain in the 20th century as artificial fibres were increasingly used, but it is once again coming into prominence both as a fibre and as an oilseed crop(1995)[K]. Linseed is grown for its edible seed, the oil from the seed and for the fibres obtained from the stems[46]. There are many named varieties, though these usually fall within with two classes. One class, generally known as flax, does not branch much and is grown mainly for the fibre in its stem, whilst the other class, known as linseed, branches much more freely and is grown mainly for its seed. Although classified as a species, linseed is possibly an ancient cultigen derived in cultivation from L. bienne[17, 238]. Flax crops take 3 - 4 months to reach maturity, though autumn or early spring sown crops can take 6 - 7 months[269]. Lolium specis (Rye grasses) and Phleum species (Timothy grass) have allelopathic effects on Linum, reducing its carbohydrate synthesis[269]. Linseed is a good companion plant for potatoes and carrots but is inhibited by Camelina sativa[18, 20]." [PFAF]

Linum Sp - Flax

Local Species;

  1. Linum bienne - pale flax [E-flora]
  2. Linum catharticum - Fairy flax [E-flora]
  3. Linum lewisii ssp lewisii - western blue flax [E-flora]
  4. Linum usitatissimum - Common flax [E-flora]


L. bienne; "Mesic fields in the lowland zone; rare in SW BC; introduced from Europe." [IFBC-E-flora] Status: Exotic [E-flora]

L. catharticum; "Newly established exotic in BC" [E-flora] Status: Exotic [E-flora]

L. lewisii ssp lewisii; "Mesic to dry meadows and forest openings from the lowland and steppe to subalpine zones; frequent in SC and NE BC, less frequent in SW and SE BC; N to AK, YT and NT, E to PQ and S to NM, AZ, CA and MX." Status: Native [E-flora]



Food Use

Othere Use

Medicinal Use


Page last modified on Monday, April 13, 2020 2:52 AM