Linum marginale is the native Australian species and the aborigines used the seeds as a food source and the tough stems to make cord and fish nets. Linum usitatissimum (who on earth thought of that mouthful?) is the northern hemisphere species which we commonly know and eat, as linseed. Another form of that species is used to make linen cloth.
The native Australian flax used to grow in our local area. It wasn’t growing on our property when we moved here, but I’ve introduced it. It’s an annual species with seed germination taking place with the autumn rains. Each seed results in a single tall stem, with small linear leaves distributed up the stem. Over spring and summer the top of the stem branches and the tips of each branch terminate in a small, pale blue flower. Seeds are formed in a rounded capsule and fall as the capsule matures and opens. The plants need to be checked every day and the mature seeds collected before they fall. That can be a pain in the you-know-where.
Linseed is a similar plant but larger in all its parts and here’s the best part of it: the seed capsule ripens and holds onto its seeds until they’re harvested. (I presume if no-one picks them, then the plants will die and fall to the ground where the capsule will eventually rot away and the seeds will be released.) I also presume it once used to release its seeds when mature like the native species, but selection by farmers has resulted in forms that hold onto their seeds, as happened with wheat.
I’m trying to grow linseed, because I use the seeds in bread-making and they are so nutritious and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Enter stage left, a flock of Aussie seed-eaters, the very colourful Eastern Rosella. So each crop of linseed has to be encircled with wire mesh and covered with netting over the top. Trouble is, it grows over a metre tall when well-watered and fed and that’s a lot of wire.
I’ve noticed that the rabbits like the native linseed and if they chew out the central growth point the plant branches from the base, produces more stems and flowers and is generally shorter. So I’m going to try cutting back the linseed plants when they get a few inches high and see what happens. Shorter plants that bear more seed will be a bonus.
Linseed: Linum usitatissimum