Named for the explorer Captain Meriwether Lewis, this plant is a member of the flax family. The scientific name Linum acknowledges flax as the source of linen fibre. The pale blue flowers, 20–35 mm across, which occur in clusters atop 20–60 cm stems, last only one day.
Medicinally, the fresh crushed leaves were used by First Nations people as an eye poultice, and to treat boils. The Thompson people of British Columbia used flax as a shampoo. (Wilkinson 127)
Growth habit and range: This is an erect perennial herb which may be branched at the base, and which is commonly found on dry sites throughout the prairie and parkland. The slender stems of this plant grow to a height of 20–60 cm.
Description: The leaves are alternate, linear, smooth, grey-green in colour, and numerous on the delicate, narrow stems. Each leaf measures about 10–25 mm in length. Several stalked, nodding flowers occur on the ends of the stems and upper branches from May to August. The flowers are short-lived, blue and each measure 10–25 mm in diameter. Each flower is comprised of 5 delicate, rounded, wedge-shaped petals which display darker, radiating fine lines, and a yellowish zone at the base. The stamens are whitish and delicate and number 5. The fruit is a stout, rounded, compartmentalized capsule measuring 5 mm in diameter which contains 8–10 shiny, dark brown seeds.
Wilkinson, Kathleen. 1999. Wildflowers of Alberta: A Guide to Common Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants. University of Alberta Press and Lone Pine Publishing, AB.