Native to Central Asia and the Mediterranean, common flax is an annual and a member of the flax family, Linaceae. Plants grow 12-36″ tall and have terete grayish-green branched stems and gray green lanceolate leaves 1-2″ long. The blue, white, or pale pink summer blooming flowers appear in terminal, leafy racemes.In ancient times flax was grown primarily in Egypt and was made into linen clothing for the general population, robes for the priests, corselets for soldiers, and bandages for mummies.
Exodus 9.31 (NIV) God sends hail on the Pharoah and Egypt for holding the Hebrews captive.
“The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom.”
Joshua 2.6 (NIV) The prostitute Rahab hides Joshua’s two spies inside the city of Jericho.
“But she [Rahab] had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.”
Judges 15.14 (NIV) Samson is brought bound to the Philistines.
“As he [Samson] approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands.”
Proverbs 31.13 (NIV) A woman of noble character is praised.
“She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”
Isaiah 19.9 (NIV) A prophacy against Egypt is given.
“Those who work with combed flax will despair, the weavers of fine linen will lose hope.”
Isaiah 42.3 (KJV) God’s description of His character is given. The “smoking flax” is also interpreted as a candle wick.
“A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”
Ezekiel 40.3 (KJV) The prophet describes his vision of a new temple.
“And he brought me thither, and, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood in the gate.”
Hosea 2.5 (KJV) The unfaithful wife tries to justify her harlotry.
“For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.”
Hosea 2.9 (KJV) God punishes the unfaithful wife.
Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.
Matthew 12.20 (KJV) Quoted from Isaiah 42.3 (see above) to the Pharisees to explain the actions of Christ.
“A bruised reed shall he [the Messiah] not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.”
Flax likes full sun and average to lean, moderately moist, well-drained soil. Propagation is by seed and stem cuttings. Plants are generally healthy with wilt being the only major problem. Flax is not a good garden plant and is usually grown for food, linseed oil, and fiber for making linen. The seed heads can be used like baby’s breath in flower arrangements.
The genus name, Linum, is the classical Latin name for the plant. The specific epithet, usitatissimum, is the classical Latin word meaning very useful.