T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Linum catharticum (Purging flax)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Eudicots
(Unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Linaceae
Genus: Linum
Species: L. catharticum
Binomial name: Linum catharticum
Common name: Purging flax, Fairy flax,

Linum catharticum is a biennial (or occasionally annual) herbaceous flowering plant (growing to 0.3 m) in the genus Linum, native to central Europe and Western Asia. It is common through out New Zealand on grassy slopes, road sides and waste places.
It is a small very delicate hairless plant with flowers in a very loose, remote arrangement, each having an extremely thin slender stalk often much longer than the flower. This very delicate and stemmed plant hardly stays still even on the calmest of days.
The flowers are white with yellow centre, 5 unnotched petals and 5 stamens. Flowers have a of diameter c 4-6 mm. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by flies and other plants. Each plant is self-fertile. The plant is annual and blooms during the summer months.
As with other flaxes the undivided narrow, 1-veined leaves are arranged in opposite pairs and the fruit capsule has a distinctive rounded shape.
The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained but moist soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils. It cannot grow in the shade.

Its specific name and its other common name of Purging Flax refer to its somewhat startling laxative effects (not recommended).