A small family of slender herbs; very valuable, as they furnish the flax from which all linen is made and many valuable medicinal remedies.
A. Common Flax. Linum usitatissimum.
B. Yellow Flax. Linum virginianum.
Wild Yellow Flax (Linum Virginianum) is a slender perennial species with a smooth stem from one to two feet in height; it branches slightly near the summit, each branch bearing at its end a few tiny yellow flowers, less than a half inch across. The flowers have a calyx divided into five sepals, a corolla of five petals, five stamens and pistils, perfect and symmetrical flowers fertilized by small bees and beelike flies. The small leaves are thin and have but one rib. This species may be found in dry woodland and thickets from Me. to Minn, and southwards to Ga.
This slender species is more attractive than the last because of its larger flowers. The stem is very slender, from one to two feet in height, and each of its few branches are terminated with one or two delicate, violet-blue flowers; these measure about three quarters of an inch broad, or slightly more, the five petals being large, broad and slightly over-lapping. Small, alternate, sharp-pointed leaves are thickly crowded on the stem; they have three, longitudinal ribs.
This is the species that is cultivated very extensively in Europe, and less so in this country, for its linen fibre and its seed oil, both of which have a very extensive commercial use. It may be found along roadsides or railroads or in waste places anywhere, usually as an escape from cultivation.
Linum striatum has tiny yellow flowers crowded on the stiff, angular branches. The leaves grow oppositely. It is found in wet woods or on sandy shores from Mass. to Ga. and west to Tex.