Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
In North Dakota, grooved flax occurs east of the Missouri River. Elsewhere, the plant can be found east to Massachusetts and south to Georgia and Texas.
An annual (grows from seed each year), grooved flax may reach a height of about eighteen inches in our area, but average specimens are much shorter. The plant is similar to common domestic flax in general appearance, except the flower petals are pale yellow. In most flaxes, the flowers bloom in the morning only to have their five petals fall off by noon on hot windy days. The bolls (seed capsules) of grooved flax are about half the size of domestic flax.
Look for grooved flax in dry native prairie. Grazing does not seem to affect the abundance of the plant to any great extent. Cattle probably avoid the plant because of its dry fibrous cortex. Unlike domestic flax, from which linen and linseed oil are derived, grooved flax has no known economic value.
The classical Latin name of flax is linum, the word from which the genus and family (Linaceae) names are derived. The specific epithet sulcatum means "furrowed" in botanical in Latin, in reference to the grooved stem branches. Grooved flax was first given scientific description by the distinguished botanist and inventor of the compound microscope John Riddell (1807-l865).