Flax, Linum usitatissimum (family: Linnacaea), is an important temperate and subtemperate plant, grown for fiber and linseed oil. The native flax of Eurasia is a straw-like annual, 600–900 millimeters (2–3 feet) high, whose white, blue, or pink flowers ripen into seed bolls. The crop is usually harvested after about 14 weeks, when the fiber is separated from the seed. The fibers are then soaked and scraped away from the woody stem and the longer ones are combed out and spun into yarn, which is turned into linen. The seeds are squeezed to give oil.


Flax is an annual, often grown in gardens as an ornamental plant. It has long narrow leaves and attractive pale blue flowers.


The Babylonians and ancient Egyptians used rope made from flax to raise the blocks of stone with which they made their buildings. The bands wound around the mummies of the Pharaohs were also made of flax. This indicates that flax was probably the first plant to be used as a textile – it was cultivated as long ago as 1,000 BC. It originated in Asia Minor and is mentioned in the Book of Exodus.