Perennial Portrait – Cat Nip

I chose to profile this perennial to clarify if catnip and catmint were one and the same. Experts say that Catnip usually refers to the medicinal plant and Catmint refers to the ornamental varieties. The ornamental varieties available have more and larger flowers, deeper colours and a tidier growth habit.

Used medicinally for 100‘s of years, Nepeta cataria aerial parts are beneficial for insomnia, nightmares, and specifically helpful with children’s dis-eases, as it has relaxing properties.

Brought to North America by our ancestors, it has been a reliable perennial in tough garden spots. It gives off an earthy-mint scent. This aromatic oil attracts cats and wards off insects. Cats are most attracted to Catnip out of all the species. Rolling in and on the plant, sometimes destroying the foliage. The concerns that this herb has the same effect on humans have proved to be unfounded.

Fresh, young leaves in salad, fresh or dried leaves for tea.

Catnip can help with stomach ailments and is a traditional cold and flu remedy. As a natural relaxant, a tea made with dried leaves may help insomnia, ease flatulence and colic.

A closer look at Cat Nip

Nepeta cataria – is the medicinal catnip; 24 x 24’’high and wide; self-seeds; the least ornamental of the catnips; best for naturalizing.

N. mussinii – sometimes called Persian Catmint 12 x 18’’ wide, lilac blue flowers that are long-blooming and is a prolific self-seeder.

N. x faassenii ‘Dropmore’ – Dropmore Catmint 12 x 20’’, sterile with lavender-blue flowers; will continuous bloom with deadheading.

N. x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’ – Walkers Low Catmint 20 x 20’’wide, blue flowers; sterile.

N. nervosa -’Pink cat’ – Pink Catmint; 15 x 18’’ pink flowers.

For the love of Latin

The Genus is the first part of a plant botanical name. Genus is the name given to a group of organisms whose physical characteristics are permanent and similar, and largely confined to that group and its first letter is always in upper case. The second name is the species name and refers to a feature of the plant and is always in lower case.

Nepeta – Latin for mint

cataria – cat

mussinii – derived/coming from; pertaining/belonging to

faassenii –sterile

nervosa – vigorous

Folklore – fact or folly

Rats are said to hate Catnip, so it has been used as a repellant. Legend tells that the kindest heart can turn mean by partaking of the root. Hangman were said to partake of a drink of the root ‘to put them in the mood’ before their work.