Stiff Yellow Flax

Linum medium

Stiff yellow flax, photographed at Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach County, in May 2021.

Flax has to be among the world’s most useful plants. From it we get cloth in the form of linen, flooring in the form of linoleum, a wood sealant in the form of linseed oil and food in the form of flax seed.

But none of that comes from our guy, stiff yellow flax, Linum medium. Same family as the useful one, but about the only thing it offers us humans is small yellow flowers. Pretty yellow flowers that please the eye, for sure, and might attract some pollinators, but nothing beyond that.

Stiff yellow flax is a Florida native found in almost all of the United States east of the Mississippi, the one exception being New Hampshire. It’s also found in a few states west of the Mississippi, including Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It’s found in most Florida counties, with Broward being one of the few exceptions. It’s also found in the Bahamas.

The Institute for Regional Conservation in Delray Beach considers it rare here.

It’s an annual plant in the northern reaches of its range, a perennial here in South Florida.

Stiff yellow flax is found in upland habitats. It dies back in winter, reemerges in the spring, first sporting a basal rossette of leaves, then sending up a stalk, which becomes multi-branched on which the flowers are borne. The blooms are a bright yellow but no more than a half-inch in diameter.

Leaves are arranged opposite each other; they’re narrowly elliptical and lie tight to the stem. The leaves are also sessile, meaning they’re attached directly to the branch. There is no leaf stem.

By the way, the flax species that offers all the good stuff is Linum usitatissimum, commonly known as common flax. It’s a native of Europe and Asia, and is naturalized to most of the U.S., including Florida. The IRC lists Everglades National Park as the lone conservation area in South Florida where it’s been found, but notes that it’s presumed to have been removed from the park.

There are four other native flaxes found in South Florida. All are classified as imperiled or critically imperiled by the IRC.

Stiff yellow flax is a member of Linaceae, the flax family.

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Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.

Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.