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Nepeta cataria - Common Catmint (Catnip)

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Lamiales - Family: Lamiaceae

Common Catmint, Nepeta cataria

An escape from cultivation, this member of the mint family is very variable, as there are many forms available to gardeners nowadays..

Description

Common Catmint (sometimes written as Cat-mint) is a rhizomatouis perennial plant growing to nearly a metre in height when competing with tall vegetation, but more often no more than 40 to 60cm tall. The finely downy stems, like those of other mint relatives, are square-sectioned.

Common Catmint, Nepeta cataria, flower head

Leaves of Common Catmint are greyish green, toothed, and hairy on their undersides; they are borne opposite up the stems. The two-lobed flowers are whitish or pale pink-mauve, and they are very variable is size and shape.

Distribution

This plant is now widespread throughout Britain - not surprisingly, therefore, this species is found most often near sites of human habitation.

Common Catmint, Nepeta cataria, Wales

Habitat

Common Catmint is particularly common on scrubby roadside verges, in hedges and even on well-drained ditch banks.

Blooming Times

In Britain and Ireland Nepeta cataria is usually in flower between early July and late September.

Uses

Common Catmint is still quite a popular garden plant. The leaves have in the past been used to make tea, while the flowers are reputed to be an effective treatment for coughs. Cats (male and female!) are said to enjoy this plant because it mimics female cat hormones - hence its common name Catmint or Catnip..

Etymology

Nepeta, the genus, may refer to an Etruscan town of that name. The specific epithet cataria means pertaining to cats.

The Common Catmint plants shown on this page were photographed in West Wales.


Volume 1

We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O'Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here...

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