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Manual of Flax Culture, Comprising Full Information on the Cultivation, Management, and Marketing of the Crop

Excerpt from Manual of Flax Culture, Comprising Full Information on the Cultivation, Management, and Marketing of the Crop: Together With a Complete Glossary and Index The flowers, arranged in a loose panicle, are about an inch in diameter. The parts of the flower are very regular and are all in fives. Fig. 1, shows a flower of the natural size and the same flower cut lengthwise through the centre is represented in fig. 2. The calyx consists of five green sepals; the petals are large, of a fine purplish blue color, and fall very soon after the flower opens. Within the petals are five stamens which surround the pistil, which consists of an ovary and five separate styles. Figure 3 shows the pistil surrounded by the stamens, and fig. 4 gives the pistil by itself with a stamen by its side, the figures being in both cases much enlarged. The ovary, or lower part of the pistil in ripening becomes the seed vessel, or boll. As it matures, the styles fall away, leaving then remains as a little point at the top of the boll, as in the left-hand engraving of fig. 5, where a seed vessel is shown with the remains of the calyx attached. When the young ovary is cut through at flowering time it only shows five cells or divisions, with two ovules in each; as the ovules mature to become seeds, a partition is formed through each of these cells or divisions, so that the ripe boll when cut open appears ten-celled, with a seed in each cell, as seen in the right-hand of fig. 5. The seed is too well known to require a description. Its skin is smooth and polished, being covered with a kind of mucilage which is readily soluble in hot water. This mucilage, dissolved in hot water, is popularly used under the name of "flax seed tea" as a bland and soothing drink in various inflammatory diseases. The seeds contain a large amount of oil. and the plant is often cultivated for this product alone. By cold expression they yield 18 to 20 per cent., and by the aid of heat, 22 to 27 per cent of oil is obtained. The seeds are usually roasted before they are pressed, as the yield of oil is greater and it is much freer from mucilage than that obtained by pressing the seeds without heat. The most powerful hydraulic presses are used in expressing the oil from flax seed; and the product, linseed oil, is largely employed in painting. When exposed to the air it gradually thickens and finally dries into hard transparent varnish. This drying property, which adapts it to its use in painting, is due to the absorption of oxygen from the air, and its tendency to do this is much increased by boiling it with litharge and other substances. The oil, just as it comes from the press, is known in commerce as "raw oil," while the other is called "boiled oil." The cake left in the press after the oil has been extracted is known as oil cake, and is much used as a food for cattle. It is however the fibre which gives the flax plant its greatest value. A stem of the plant being cut across, we find the centre occupied by pith, outside of this is a layer of ordinary woody fibres, then the liber or inner bark, which consists of very long and remarkably tough fibres, and outside of all an outer bark covered by a skin or epidermis. The object of all the processes of rotting, breaking, scutching, etc., is to separate the fibres of the liber, or inner bark, from all the other portions. The fibre of the flax is very tough, and has sufficient inequality of surface to adapt it to spinning. Being a good conductor of heat, compared with cotton, wool and silk, linen clothing is proverbially cool. About the Publisher Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at
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