Oxtongue & Linseed
Oxtongue & Linseed
Picris (oxtongues) is a genus in the sunflower family described as a genus by Linnaeus in 1753. Helminthotheca echioides, known as bristly oxtongue, is a stiff annual or biennial herb native to Europe and North Africa. It was traditionally used as an antihelminthic treatment. There are two species of Oxtongue in this country, both with a scattered distribution in the south and east. One deserves its name, from the shape and roughness of its leaves, the Bristly Oxtongue. It is a doubtful native but is recorded from a Late Bronze Age hut site in Kent. It is common on roadsides and wasteland. From Central Europe northwards it was regarded as introduced, though well established. It has been introduced into the U.S.A. The name used here, and the lang de beef which has been recorded, come from the French langue du boeuf. It produces fruits of two very different types. The yellow florets produce small fruits with well-developed hairy 'parachutes' for dispersal by the wind, but each flower head also produces from three to five fruits opposite the large leafy bracts which surround it, these being heavier and having a smaller parachute, so they tend to land near the parent plant.
Flax (Linum usitatissimum), also known as common flax or linseed, is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is a food and fibre crop cultivated in cooler regions of the world. The textiles made from flax are known in the Western countries as linen, and traditionally used for bed sheets, underclothes, and table linen. Linseed is not native but is often cultivated for the fibres from the stem (separated from other tissues by 'retting' in water) to make cloth, or for its seeds. Flax is one of the oldest cultivated plants, probably from Neolithic times. It was grown in Ancient Egypt 5000 years ago and was the basis to the cloth used for wrapping mummies. The name Flax comes from the Mediaeval Latin filassium meaning yarn (itself coming from the verb filare - to spin). The seeds provide Linseed Oil (containing 30-40%) and the residue after the oil has been pressed is fed to cattle or used for poultices. It is used in the manufacture of paints and varnishes and has medicinal uses in cough medicines. It can be used externally on burns and scalds. It has been used internally as a laxative. Linseed resembles its close relation, the Purging Flax (Linum catharticum), a widespread native plant used in cases of constipation, gravel and dropsy.