Linum puberulum

Plains Flax - Linum puberulum
East of Hillsboro
New Mexico, USA
April 8, 2017

I had identified this flower as Chihuahua Yellow Flax, Linum vernale, in the past.  I now realize that it is Plains Flax, Linum puberulum.  The difference between the two is the pubescence of the foliage.  Linum vernale has pubescent foliage (covered in small hairs).  

Linum puberulum, has a limited range within the United States (see BONAP map to the right), being found only in the west, north of Sonora and Chihuahua in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and California (where it is rare).  It may also be found in a limited area in northern Mexico.  The light green color on the map indicates that the species is native to, and not rare within, the county indicated.

Scientific synonyms for this species include Cathartolinum puberulum, Cathartolinum vestitum, Mesynium puberulum, and Linum rigidum Pursh var. puberulum.  The original description of the species was made by George Englemann, later modified by Amos Arthur Heller.  It is also known as Hairy Yellow Flax and Desert Flax.

The Holotype Specimen was first described by E. O. Wooton & Standley as Cathartolinum vestitum.  The specimen was collected by O. B. Metcalfe in 1901 at Mangas Springs, New Mexico.  The Isotype Specimen of Linum rigidum var. puberulum was collected by A. Fendler in 1847, in northeastern New Mexico.  It is this specimen, which is shown below.

The Native American Ethnobotany Data Base lists several uses of the plant by the indigenous peoples of this area - but I have to wonder about used as an “infusion of plant taken to kill a swallowed red ant”.


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© Robert Barnes 2018