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Linaceae: Flax Family Plant Identification Characteristics

Linaceae
Plants of the Flax Family

      Flax plants wake up with a cheer every morning. In spite of their wispy little stems and small leaves that may nearly disappear in dry weather, flax plants open up a whole bouquet of fresh flowers each day with the rising sun. The plants often droop under the weight of their own exuberance, and all the petals fall off by noon-but just wait until tomorrow, and they will do it all again.

      Flax is often planted in wildflower mixes used along highways in the West. The flowers are bisexual and regular, with 5 separate sepals, 5 separate petals and 5 or 10 stamens. The sepals are alternate with the petals. The ovary is positioned superior and consists of 5 (rarely 3 or 4) united carpels (syncarpous), with the partition walls present, forming an equal number of chambers. It often looks more like 10 carpels due to intrusion of the midrib. The ovary matures as a capsule (rarely a drupe) with each cell containing 1 or 2 seeds. The capsule splits apart longitudinally like the sections of an orange.

      Worldwide, there are 12 genera and 290 species. Only Hesperolinon and Linum are native to North America. Flax plants supply fibers for linen and seeds for linseed oil. Linseed oil is used as a drying agent in paints and varnishes and is also used in the manufacture of linoleum. Reinwardtia is a small shrub from India sometimes planted in conservatories.

Key Words: Flower parts in fives. Seed capsules like the sections of an orange.

Please e-mail Thomas J. Elpel to report mistakes or to inquire about purchasing high resolution photos of these plants.


Linum lewisii. Blue Flax.

Linum lewisii. Blue Flax.

Linum lewisii. Blue Flax.

Linum lewisii. Blue Flax.

Linum rigidum. Stiffstem Flax.

Linum rigidum. Stiffstem Flax.

Linum rigidum. Stiffstem Flax.

Linum rigidum. Stiffstem Flax. Near Ashland, Montana.

There are more
Flax Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.


Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Books
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Thomas J. Elpel
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, andthe Blossoming of Human Spirit
Roadmap
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Living
Homes
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids
Shanleya's
Quest

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