Linen is obtained from the flax plant. The distribution of wild varieties of flax occurs from the Mediterranean region eastward to Iran and Iraq and is also found along the Atlantic coast of Europe. The cultivation of flax was even more widespread, and Belgium, the Netherlands, England and Ireland still cultivate flax commercially. Evidence of a cultivated flax (Linum usitatissimum) dates from before 5000 BC in the Middle East. The plant is a herbaceous flowering annual that adapts easily to its environment. It is not known whether the earliest use of flax was for its valuable oil-bearing seeds (linseed) or its woody stems for textile production.
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