Catnip





or =cat mint= (Nepeta cataria, Linn.), a perennial herb of the

natural order Labiatae. The popular name is in allusion to the attraction

the plant has for cats. They not only eat it, but rub themselves upon it

purring with delight. The generic name is derived from the Etrurian city

Neptic, in the neighborhood of which various species of the genus

formerly became prominent.



Like several of its relatives catnip is a well-known weed. It has become

naturalized in America, and is most frequently observed in dry, waste

places, especially in the East, though it is also often found in gardens

and around dwellings throughout the United States and Canada.



Description.--Its erect, square, branching stems, from 18 to 36 inches

tall, bear notched oval or heartshaped leaves, whitish below, and during

late summer terminal clusters of white flowers in small heads, far

apart below, but crowded close above. The fruits are small, brown,

ovoid, smooth and with three clearly defined angles. An ounce contains

about 3,400 seeds. Viability lasts for five years.



Cultivation. Catnip will grow with the most ordinary attention on any

fairly dry soil. The seed need only be sown in autumn or spring where

the plants are to remain or in a nursery bed for subsequent

transplanting. If to be kept in a garden bed they should stand 18 to 24

inches apart each way. Nothing is needful except to keep down weeds in

order to have them succeed for several years on the same spot.



Uses.--The most important use of the plant is as a bee forage; for

this purpose waste places are often planted to catnip. As a condiment

the leaves were formerly in popular use, especially in the form of

sauces; but milder flavors are now more highly esteemed. Still, the

French use catnip to a considerable extent. Like many of its relatives,

catnip was a popular medicinal remedy for many fleshly ills; now it is

practically relegated to domestic medicine. Even in this it is a

moribund remedy for infant flatulence, and is clung to only by

unlettered nurses of a passing generation.





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