Flax

Flax is a widely cultivated plant having pale blue flowers, seeds that yield linseed oil, and slender stems from which a textile fiber is obtained.

external image Th_antiques_flax_020311_t300.jpg?8aff03de2423e912a2467e97388a07f5331c05b6
It has been found in all temperate and tropical regions since earliest history.

Botanical Information:
The Flax plant's scientific name is Linum usitatissimum and it is part of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae up to 60cm. It normally has single stems. It is an annual plant that grows up to 1.2 meters and is visited frequently by bees. Its seeds are in Lanceolate leaves till 4 cm long and 4mm wide, in Dark Blue Flowers till 3 cm in diameter, and fruits (Linseed) till 1cm. The Flax is a little plant with turquoise blue blossoms, 1 to 2 feet high, the stems usually solitary quite smooth, with alternate, linear, sessile leaves, 3/4 to 1 inch long.


Classification:


Kingdom
Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom
Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision
Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division
Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class
Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass
Rosidae
Order
Linales
Family
Linaceae – Flax family
Genus
Linum L. – flax






external image flax3.jpgexternal image 380362.jpg






















The strands of flax fibre are embedded longitudinally in the stalk of the plant, between the outer epidermis and the central woody tissue. The fibre, which is very high in cellulose, is extracted first by "retting" (rotting either by water or dew) and then by "scutching" the stalks.
The characteristics of the fibre are great strength, fineness and durability. The fibre is stronger than cotton and also stronger when wet than dry.



Domestic Information:
Although the exact region of the Flax Plant cannot be identified because it goes back so many generations today is it commonly grown mostly everywhere in The United States and Europe. Flax is one of the English-grown medicinal herbs, the products of which are included in the British Pharmacopoeia, its seed known as Linseed, being much employed in medicine. It has been cultivated in all temperate and tropical regions for so many centuries that its geographical origin cannot be identified. Many traditions are associated with this plant. Flax flowers were believed in the Middle Ages to be a protection against sorcery. It has been grown in large quantities in the alluvial soils of Lincolnshire and in the eastern counties, and flourishes well in Ireland. It succeeds best in deep, moist loams such as contain a large proportion of vegetable matter, in good condition, firm, not loose. Strong clays do not answer well, nor poor soils, nor such as are of a gravelly or sandy nature, nor should the soil be freshly manured. It is best treated as a farm crop. Meaning that it is quickly grown and quickly harvested. It can be grown after a winter root crop, being over and reaped in time to secure a catch crop for the following reason. The seed, which must be kept dry, as damp injures it, is sown in March or April. The crop itself must be handweeded or the roots since they are being surface rooted will most likely be injured. It should and is usually reaped in August, before the seed is fully ripe.

external image LINUM.png



Historical Background:
external image 5stageflax.jpg
The use of flax for heavier grade purposes, such as canvas and towelling, has declined in recent times and its main use now is for finer fabric yarns (including blending with wool and synthetic materials). Lower grades are also used in the paper industry (largely for cigarette paper manufacture) and, in a chopped form, in the automobile industry and for insulation purposes. There is not a standardized grading system. Sales are effected based on samples delivered from each annual crop.
Flax was first brought to North America for its stem fiber to use in making of linen and paper. The stem fiber of flax makes a fine parchment paper. In the Northern Great Plains region of the United States and Canada, flaxseed has been grown as a commercial oilseed crop for over 100 years. Linseed oil is pressed from flaxseed and further extracted with a petroleum solvent. Industrial linseed is not useable for food or feed, although the linseed meal remaining as a by-product after oil extraction is used for animal feed rations. Use is increasing for flaxseed as a food.
Flaxseed and flaxseed oil have been used for food for centuries in Asia, Europe, and Africa. More recently flaxseed has come onto its own in North America. Flaxseed has three major components making it beneficial in human and animal nutrition, a very high content of alpha linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) essential for humans, a high percentage of dietary fiber soluble and insoluble, and the highest content of plant lignans of all plant or seed products used for human food. Feeding flaxseed to laying hens increases the omega-3 fatty acid in the egg by 6 to 8 times, making one egg equal to 113 g (4 oz) of cold water fish as a source of the omega-3 fatty acids. Further, research supported by the North Dakota Oilseed Council in Nebraska and Texas indicates consumption of up to 14 flax eggs/week improves the nature of blood lipids




WildCard(Clothing Material):


Flax is also known as linen. The flax plant yields the fibres for linen cloth; the short fibres not needed for cloth production can be used to make paper. Linen has been used for thousands of years.The fibre is obtained from the stalk of the flax plant - Linum Usitatissimum. This plant grows 80 - 120 cms high with few branches and small flowers. The stems are composed of 70 percent cellulose. Prior to fibre harvesting, the flax plants are first de-seeded then retting or separating the straw or bark for the fibre occurs. The flax is then rolled and stored for use. Flax plants are pulled from the ground rather than cut, in order to retain the full length of the fibres, and to prevent fibre discoloration.
external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQJGFWJP-zIhxJ78yMflH5PVvzXhd2Sj_iAlDT8M6XjcCZP6XasnWsI98NgSome of the benefits of linen are that it is allergy-free, absorbs humidity and allows the skin to breathe, antistatic,
antibacterial and low elasticity (fabrics don't deform). Linen can be washed many times without alteration. It is able to absorb up to 20 times its weight in moisture before it feels damp.
Common uses for linen include:
  • Table wear external image linen-yarn-textile-from-fibre-flax.jpg
    Suiting
  • Clothing apparel
  • Surgical thread
  • Sewing thread
  • Decorative fabrics
  • Bed linen
  • Kitchen towels
  • High quality papers
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Draperies
  • Upholstery
  • Wall coverings
  • Artists canvases
  • Luggage fabrics
  • Panelling
  • Insulation, filtration
  • Light aviation use (fabrics)
  • Reinforced plastics and composites



References:
  1. "The Flax Plant." The Flax Plant. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.<http://www.wigglesworthfibres.com/products/flax/theflaxplant.html>
  2. "Summary-Health Benefits of Flaxseed." NutraPro International RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://nutraprointl.com/2009/10/11/summary-health-benefits-of-flax-seeds/>.
  3. "Flax." A Modern Herbal. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/f/flax--23.html>.
  4. "Flax: New Uses and Demands." Flax: New Uses and Demands. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-358.html>.
  5. "Flax and Linen." Flax and Linen. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.binhaitimes.com/flax.html>.