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 ca
nip 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.