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Wild Blue Flax, Lewis Flax, Prairie Flax - Linum lewisii


Family: Linaceae - Flax family Genus Common Name: Flax Native Status: Native
Linum lewisii - Wild Blue Flax, Lewis Flax, Prairie Flax. Wild Blue Flax is found in most of the western 2/3 of the United States. There are three recognized varieties found in North America; one found only in the United States, one found only in Canada, and a third found in both the United States and Canada - var. lewisii.

A very similar species is the non-native Linum perenne, an import from Europe, which is found in scatterings across the United States. Some authorities treat the native L. lewisii as a subspecies of L. perenne - my guess is that the treatment may depend on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you call home. Many authorities call Linum perenne var lewisii a synonym of Linum lewisii. Cultivated flax, L. usitatissimum, is also similar in appearance.

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Linum lewisii

Distribution of Linum lewisii in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 26 Mar 2017). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Lucky Peak Area, Boise Foothills, Ada County, ID Date: 2010-June-14Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Linum lewisii has five blue petals (occasionally white), five stamens with elongated white anthers, and 5 somewhat spherical stigmas. Due to the relatively dark blue color, I believe this to be var. lewisii. A reported characteristic, seen in this photo, of L. lewisii is that the styles (with the spherical stigmas) are longer than the stamens. Other Linum species also have that characteristic, so it cannot be used to positively identify a species as L. lewisii.
Linum lewisii

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer