Flax (also known as common flax or linseed) (binomial name: Linum usitatissimum) is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is a food and fibre crop that is grown in cooler regions of the world. Flax fibres are taken from the stem of the plant and are two to three times as strong as those of cotton. As well, flax fibers are naturally smooth and straight. Europe and North America depended on flax for cloth until the nineteenth century, when cotton overtook flax as the most common plant used for making linen paper. Flax is grown on the Canadian Praires for linseed oil, which is used as a drying oil in paints and varnish and in products such as linoleum and printing inks. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. Flax was extensively cultivated in ancient Ethiopia and ancient Egypt. A discovery reported in 2009 of spun, dyed, and knotted wild flax fibers in a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia shows that the plant was already in use by humans at the surprisingly early date of 30,000 BC. New Zealand flax is not related to flax but was named after it, as both plants are used to produce fibers.
Linum (flax) is a genus of approximately 200 species in the flowering plant family Linaceae, native to temperate and subtropical regions of the world. It includes the Common Flax (L. usitatissimum), the bast fibre of which is used to produce linen and the seeds to produce linseed oil.
The flowers of most species are blue or yellow, rarely red, white, or pink, and some are heterostylous. There is an average of 6-10 seeds per boll.
Linum species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Cabbage Moth, The Nutmeg, Setaceous Hebrew Character and Coleophora benedictella, which feeds exclusively on Linum narbonense.
Several flaxes are cultivated as garden ornamentals, including the blue-flowered species Linum lewisii, L. perenne, and L. narbonense, red-flowered L. grandiflorum, and yellow-flowered L. flavum.