A blue-flowered plant, Linum usitatissimum, cropped for seeds (linseed) that are pressed into oil and for the stems which provide fibre for linen. It is the most important crop in the bast fibre group.
Flax has been grown for millennia and linen is the earliest known textile, small pieces found in the middle east have been dated to 5000 BC. It is strongest when wet and flax likes to grow in wet areas, which is handy as the extraction process also requires water to be close by. Some of the best linen comes from Ireland, Belgium, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia.
Linen has always been a high level utility fabric – immensely strong, useful, easy to manage and wear and biodegradable. From the cradle to the grave, swaddling to shrouding, and everything else between – bandages, babies nappies, blankets, mattress covers, towels, cooking cloths, strainers sacks, sheets and quilts. In medieval Europe, linen thread was notably used to make Valenciennes lace.