Field of flax plants. Field of flax plants.

Flax is an upright, annual plant of the genus Linum (family Linaceae). The most widespread version of flax is Linum usitatissimum, which is native to a vast area extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India. The plant is cultivated either for its seed (linseed) or for its fibres.

The flax fibres are obtained from the phloem tissue, between the bark and the woody core of the plant stem. The fibres can be about 30 to 100 cm in length. They are flexible and strong, but lacking in elasticity.

Flax is one of the oldest textile fibres known. Flax was probably first domesticated in the Middle East; it was extensively cultivated, for example, in ancient Egypt. It is sometimes said that it was cultivated in ancient China, but it is more likely that ramie was being grown rather than flax.

The production of flax fibres in Northern Europe dates back to the Neolithic. Flax was introduced into North America in the seventeenth century. Both the yarn and the cloth made of flax are known as linen.

Source: TORTORA, Phyllis G. and Ingrid JOHNSON (2014). The Fairchild Books: Dictionary of Textiles, 8th edition, London: Bloomsbury, pp. 237-238.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 6 June 2016).


Last modified on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16:53
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