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Common flax or common flax (Linum usitatissimum), illustration

Common flax or common flax
( Linum usitatissimum ), illustration

Nuclear eudicotyledons
Eurosiden I
Order : Malpighiales (Malpighiales)
Family : Flax Family (Linaceae)
Genre : Flax
Scientific name

Flax ( Linum ) or flax called, is a genus within the family of Flax Family (Linaceae) with about 200 species .


It is one or two years or perennial herbaceous plants , semi-shrubs or shrubs , some of them evergreen , with upright stems . They have sessile, entire leaves , stipules are usually missing.

The short-lived flowers are five-fold and radially symmetrical, usually free, occasionally fused at the base and bloom blue, yellow, red, pink or white. The ten- compartment capsule fruits contain a black or brown seed in each compartment.


Flax is found in the temperate and subtropical regions of both hemispheres.

Section Linum : Two-year-old flax ( Linum bienne )
Linum section : Red flax ( Linum grandiflorum )
Linum section : Linum narbonense
Dasylinum section : sticky flax ( Linum viscosum )
Linastrum section : Narrow-leaved flax ( Linum tenuifolium )
Cathartolinum section : Purgier-Lein ( Linum catharticum )
Section Syllinum : Linum campanulatum
Section Syllinum : Yellow flax ( Linum flavum )


The "flax genus" is the largest in the family of Flax Family and is filed there in the subfamily Linoideae.

The internal system of the genre is not consolidated, although it has always been worked on intensively. A system of species complexes and groups was in use for decades, especially for the American species. As a reference for the entire genre, H. Winkler's division of the genre into six sections from 1931, reproduced here in a version slightly updated by Axel Diederichsen and Ken Richards, still serves . The Eulinum section, which is often cited in the literature, is divided into the two sections Linum and Dasylinum . The following list is not exhaustive; it is a selection:

  • Section Linum (large-flowered; petals ingrown, blue, pink or white; stigmas longer than wide; leaves alternate, glandless, glabrous)
    • Alpine flax ( Linum alpinum Jacq. ), Occurs in Europe in the mountains: Pyrenees, Alps, Apennines, Rhodope Mountains and Urals.
    • Linum altaicum Ledeb. ex Juz. , occurs in Central Asia and West Siberia.
    • Linum amurense Aleph. , occurs in East Asia, China, and Japan.
    • Austrian flax ( Linum austriacum L. ) occurs in nine different subspecies in the Mediterranean and ranges from North Africa to Central Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus and West Siberia.
    • Linum baicalense Juz. , occurs in Siberia and Mongolia.
    • Biennial flax ( Linum bienne Mill. , Syn .: Linum angustifolium Huds. ), Also called wild flax, occurs in the Mediterranean region, from North Africa to Great Britain, Crimea and Iran.
    • Linum decumbens Desf. , occurs in the Mediterranean region.
    • Red flax , also called Prachtlein ( Linum grandiflorum Desf. ), Occurs in the Mediterranean region, especially in Algeria.
    • Lothringer flax ( Linum leonii F.W. Schultz ), occurs only in Central Europe to France.
    • Linum lewisii Pursh , is found in Alaska, Canada, the United States and northern Mexico.
    • Linum meletonis Hand.-Mazz. , occurs in the Middle East.
    • Linum mesostylum Juz. , occurs in Tajikistan.
    • Linum monogynum G. Forst. , occurs in New Zealand.
    • Linum narbonense L. , occurs in the Mediterranean region and in North Africa.
    • Perennial flax ( Linum perenne L. ), occurs from Europe to Siberia and is naturalized in North America.
    • Linum sibiricum DC.
    • Common flax ( Linum usitatissimum L. ), also called flax and cultivated flax, the area of ​​its origin is unknown, but the species probably originates from Linum bienne .
  • Section Dasylinum (Planchon) Juz. (like linum , leaves or flower stalks but hairy, always persistent)
  • Section Cathartolinum (Reichenb.) Griseb. (like Linum , scars but thickened at the end)
  • Section Syllinum Griseb. (like Linum , but petals grown together as a bud, yellow or white; leaves with glands at the base)
  • Section Cliococca (Also called a separate genre Cliococca Bab. Viewed: petals shorter than sepals , South America, monotypic )
    • Linum selaginoides Lam. , also Cliococca selaginoides (Lam.) CM Rogers & Mildner , occurs in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Flax field


See also : flax fiber , linen industry

Some types ( common flax , perennial flax , two-year flax ) are or were used for fiber production. The history of its use goes back 6,000 to 10,000 years, making the linseed genus some of the oldest cultivated plants . In addition to being used in textiles, types of flax are also used as technical fibers, as medicinal plants (for example, Purgier flax ), as food ( flaxseed ) and for the production of linseed oil with a wide range of uses (for example oil paint ).

Cultural history

The most important seed oil plants in prehistoric Central Europe were flax and poppy seeds . In view of the comparatively low traceability - flax seeds puff up when charred and are barely recognizable as fragments - their significance is likely to have been greater than the picture suggests. Camelina ( Camelina sp. ) Seems to have grown on common areas with flax. In the case of flax, the seeds do not tell whether they were used as linseed or fiber flax. Finds from Langweiler in the Rhineland and Eisenberg in Thuringia suggest that it is Springlein ( Linum usitatissimum subsp. Crepitans Elladi is). Rhenish reserve finds give evidence of locks (Dresch-Lein) ( Linum usitatissimum subsp. Usitatissimum ). The seed finds show that flax was grown separately from other crops and used as a source of fat.

Flax is more widespread in western ceramics and occurs, with the exception of Bohemia, only west of the Elbe. There is, however, no doubt about the Near Eastern origin of the small culture. The wild form is widespread in the circum-Mediterranean region and in the Middle East and Central Asia. In Central Europe, the plant is grown today as a summer, only in the foothills as a winter, as in the past. In the Middle Neolithic, flax is found less often. In the Rhineland and in the Michelsberg culture it was completely absent during this time.

The early to late Neolithic history of flax has been particularly well researched on Lake Zurich . Its rise began during the younger Pfyner culture . It reached its climax in the Horgen culture and remained at a relatively high level even during the cord pottery. Its spread on Lake Constance was similar. In the Young and Late Neolithic of the Federsee area, in the Pfyn-Altheimer culture and in the Goldberg III group, excessive use has been proven.

For a long time it was unclear whether seeds and flax stalks were used in the ceramic era. A well found in Mohelnice near Brno provided cords made of flax fibers. In the Levant , flax was processed into textiles as early as the 8th millennium BC (PPNB). In the southern Carpathian Basin in the 2nd quarter of the 5th millennium BC. The double use of flax as a fiber and food plant is assured for the Young and Late Neolithic . The use of the fibers is attested by the finds of flax fish made of bones and, above all, of textiles and nets made of flax, which have been preserved in the humid settlements of the foothills of the Alps.

The oldest signs of flax cultivation in Sweden date back to the Viking Age (800–1150 AD).


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Neil D. Westcott, Alister D. Muir: Chemical Studies on the constituents of Linum spp. In: Neil D. Westcott, Alister D. Muir (Eds.): Flax. The Genus Linum (= Medicinal and aromatic plants - industrial profiles. Volume 34). Taylor & Francis, New York et al. a. 2003, ISBN 0-415-30807-0 , pp. 55-73.
  2. Axel Diederichsen, Ken Richards: Cultivated flax and the genus "Linum" L. Taxonomy and germplasm conservation. In: Neil D. Westcott, Alister D. Muir (Eds.): Flax. The Genus Linum (= Medicinal and aromatic plants - industrial profiles. Volume 34). Taylor & Francis, New York et al. a. 2003, ISBN 0-415-30807-0 , pp. 22-54.
  3. a b c d e f g Linum in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), USDA , ARS , National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  4. a b Werner Greuter , HM Burdet, G. Long: Med Checklist . Volume 4, pages 216-226, Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques, Genève 1989. ISBN 2-8277-0154-5

Web links

Commons : Lein ( Linum )  - album with pictures, videos and audio files