An annual herb, Flax has slender stems with linear green leaves, beautiful, flat blue flowers, and oily brown seeds. The stems yield durable fibers, used to make linen and twine. The mineral-rich seeds yield cold-pressed oil for cooking and hot-pressed linseed oil for artists’ and industrial use. The weeds contain a soothing mucilage.
Anagallis is a genus of about 20 to 25 species of flowering plants. Anagallis monellii, the Blue Pimpernel is native to the western Mediterranean region where It is found in dry, open habits. Information is scarce regarding its history and domestication and very few cultivars are available.
Anagallis were formerly classified as members of the primrose family (Primulaceae), but a genetic and morphological study by Källersjö showed that they belong to the closely related family Myrsinaceae. In the APG III system, published in 2009, Primulaceae is expanded to include Myrsinaceae, thus Anagallis is in Primulaceae. Anagallis is commonly called pimpernel and perhaps best known for the wildflower species Anagallis arvensis, also called the Scarlet Pimpernel, as in the character in literature.
The botanical name is from the Greek, ana meaning ‘again’, and agallein meaning ‘to delight in’, and refers to the opening and closing of the flowers in response to environmental conditions. The flowers of the species open each time the sun strikes them. Their habit of closing in dull weather and when rain is approaching has given the plant the name “Poor man’s weather-glass.”
The species name monellii is after French horticulturist Jean Monelle. He was responsible for introducing a number of plants into the country, including the pimpernel with the large blue flowers. It was named after him by Linnaeus.