Monday, December 28, 2009

Scarlet Flax

Botanical name: Linum grandiflorum rubrum (Linaceae)
Other name: Flowering Flax, Red Flax

Scarlet Flax is a hardy annual, and like many of these temporary garden decorations, provides a bright splash of colour in the summer months. It has tall, thin stems with narrow leaves, all in a glaucous greyish-green, with spectacular rounded flowers about an inch and a half across in bright crimson with a deeper centre leading to a solid black eye, with a matching deeper rim to each petal. It is native to northern Africa and southern Europe, it has naturalized throughout the United States. Once established this variety can tolerate immense heat and extremely dry conditions. The glossy, deep scarlet flowers bloom in profusion and are best admired if planted in density.

How to grow

Light: Full sun
Soil: Well drained soil
Height: 12-24 inches
Germination: 20-25 days
Optimum soil temperature for germination: 65-70F
Sowing depth: 1/16", and 12 inch apart, Thin out the seedlings to 10-15cm (4-6in) apart
Blooming period: April-September

The seeds glisten because of their high oil content, flax being the source of linseed oil with which linoleum is manufactured, & artists' paints, with scores of industrial uses. L. usitatissum is the species grown commercially for linseed oil, but it can also be obtainted from L. grandiflorum & other flaxes.

In Africa, the seeds are roasted & added to baked bread, & is thought to have medicinal properties. It is not eaten in the west, but the meal that remains after oil extraction is used as a livestock feed.

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