Information on Flax

Common Name: Flax
Scientific Name: Linum utisatissimum
Irish Name: Líon
Family Group: Linaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Flax could sometimes be confused with:

Flax, Pale,

This attractive species was formerly used as a crop for oil and linen-making; it can now be found scattered across Ireland, more towards the southern half of the country on waste ground and in verges. It is an annual, bearing exquisite blue 5-petalled flowers (3-4cm across) on tall, slender stems. The stigmas are club-shaped and about as long as the stamens which have deep blue anthers. Branched veins lead in, almost from the outer edge of the petals, darkening as they go into the centre of the flower. Stems are sometimes branched and bear narrow, lanceolate, 3-veined leaves. The plants grow to about 80cm tall. Flowering from May to September, this species is now spread as a result of feeding birds with the seeds in ‘Bird-seed’ mixtures. It belongs to the Linaceae or Flax family.  

I first saw this most attractive plant in Gibletstown in Wexford in 2010 and photographed it there in 2018.

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Flax has been a cultivated plant for many centuries, indeed its species name – utisatissimum – means ‘most useful’. Worn in ancient Egypt by priests, the linen that was made from its fibres was considered a symbol of purity. Its seeds can be ground and made into the health supplement, linseed oil. Flax fibres are also used in the production of items such as banknotes, tea bags and cigarette paper. Along with Shamrock, Flax is an emblem of Northern Ireland.