Lewis flax

(Linum lewisii var. lewisii)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not listed

Xxxxxxxxxxx

 

NatureServe

N4N5 - Apparently secure to Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Nativity

Native to western North America, Adventive and spreading in Minnesota

Occurrence

Uncommon in Minnesota

Habitat

Dry. Prairies, meadows, roadsides, railroads, and disturbed sites. Full sun. Well-drained soil.

Flowering

May to July

 
Flower Color

Blue

 
Height

6 to 31½ (15 to 80 cm)

 
 
Identification

Lewis flax is an uncommon, non-native, prairie wildflower. It is native to western North America from Alaska to Mexico east to southwest Manitoba, North Dakota, and Texas. It is uncommon in Minnesota where it is considered adventive—it is not fully established and the populations in the state may not be self-sustaining. The first recorded observation in Minnesota was in 1959. It continues to spread as it is often included in seed mixes used on prairie restorations.

Lewis flax is a 6 to 31½ (15 to 80 cm) tall, erect, perennial forb that rises usually on several stems from a branched woody base (caudex) and a deep taproot. It is found on prairies, meadows, roadsides, railroads, and disturbed sites. It grows under full sun in well-drained soil. It is intolerant of shade. It is semi-evergreen, with at least some foliage remaining green throughout the winter.

The stems are usually erect or curve up from the base (ascending). In poor conditions they may recline on the ground. They are hairless, round in cross section, very leafy, and branched both near the base and in the inflorescence.

The leaves are long, narrow, stalkless, alternate, and closely spaced, sometimes appearing whorled. The leaf blades are 3 16 to 13 16 (5 to 30 mm) long and 1 64 to 3 16 (0.5 to 4.5 mm) wide. They may be widest below the middle (lance-shaped), straight-sided and widest at the middle (linear), or widest above the middle (obovate). The base of the leaf does not continue down the stem. The upper and lower surfaces have neither hairs nor stalked glands. The margins are untoothed.

Flowers are not produced until the third year or, if conditions are favorable, the end of the second year. The flowering period occurs from May to July and lasts about 33 days. The inflorescence is an open, one-sided, branched cluster (panicle) or unbranched cluster (raceme) of about 10 flowers at the end of the stem and branches. Each flower is on a 3 16 to ¾ (5 to 20 mm) long stalk (pedicel). The raceme or panicle branches and the pedicels droop when in bud, becoming more erect when in flower.

The flowers are ¾ to 1 wide. There are 5 outer floral leaves (sepals), 5 petals, 5 stamens, and 5 styles. The sepals are green and to ¼ (3.5 to 6 mm) long. The margins are dry, membranous, and untoothed. The petals are wedge-shaped to inversely egg-shaped and ½ to long. They are usually bright blue, rarely white, with thin dark veins. The veins become darker and wider approaching the base. The base of the petals are white but sometimes appear yellow when covered with pollen. The petals open at sunrise and fall off by late afternoon. The stamens are to (3 to 10 mm) long and have white anthers. The styles are ¼ to ½ (6 to 12 mm) long and are free, not fused together. At the tip of the style the stigma is unlobed, globe-shaped, and abruptly expanded.

The fruit is a globe-shaped to egg-shaped, to 5 16 (4 to 8 mm) long, 3 16 to ¼ (5 to 6 mm) wide capsule. At maturity the capsule splits from the top down into 10 segments, each segment containing a single seed. The seeds are viscous or gelatinous when wet.

 
Similar
Species

 

 
Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 28, 29, 30.

 
Comments

Variety
There are three varieties of Lewis flax (Linum lewisii). The nominate variety L. l. var. lewisii is the most widespread and the only variety found in Minnesota.

 
Taxonomy

Family:

Linaceae (flax)

 

Subfamily:

Linoideae

 

Genus:

Linum

 
Synonyms

Adenolinum lewisii

Linum perenne ssp. lewisii

Linum perenne var. lewisii

 
Common
Names

blue flax

Lewis flax

Lewis’ flax

 

Lewis’s flax

prairie flax

wild blue flax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Ascending

Curving upward from the base.

 

Caudex

A short, thickened, woody, persistent enlargement of the stem, at or below ground level, used for water storage.

 

Linear

Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.

 

Panicle

A pyramidal inflorescence with a main stem and branches. Flowers on the lower, longer branches mature earlier than those on the shorter, upper ones.

 

Pedicel

In plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. In Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen.

 

Raceme

An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.

 

Sepal

An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

 

Stigma

In plants, the portion of the female part of the flower that is receptive to pollen. In Lepidoptera, an area of specialized scent scales on the forewing of some skippers, hairstreaks, and moths. In Odonata, a thickened, dark or opaque cell near the tip of the wing on the leading edge.

       
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Created: 12/23/2019

Last Updated:

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