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Catnip is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia but also grows throughout North America and Africa. Both the Latin name and scientific names are derived from the inability of cats to resist the aroma of this plant. Cats get frisky when they eat this plant yet humans find it relaxing. It has been used for centuries in herbal remedies and as a relaxing tea.
Distinguishing Features: Catnip is a whitish-gray plant with an aromatic minty odor. It is a hardy, upright, perennial herb with sturdy stems covered with very fine hairs. Catnip bears heart-shaped, grayish-green leaves.
Flowers: Catnip flowers are white or near white some having purple spots, are hermaphrodite and are pollinated by bees making this a plant that attracts wildlife. Tubular catnip flowers are arranged in dense whorls on spikes. The clusters of white or (pale lavender tubular flowers) bloom from July to October.
Leaves: Catnip leaves are silvery/gray to an almost blue/green colour. The leaves are oblong to heart-shaped with finely-scalloped edges and are covered with a soft ‘down’. Whitish hairs grow on the lower side.
Height: Catnip grows to varying heights including up to one metre tall.
Habitat: Catnip likes sandy and loamy soils, preferring well-drained soil. It does not like shade and grows best open area, hedgerows, waste ground, near streams and border areas of fields. Many people choose to cultivate catnip. This plant thrives in soil with a pH range between 5 and 7.5.
Edible parts: Young leaves can be eaten raw. Their mint-like flavour adds an aromatic flavouring in salads. Older leaves can be used as flavouring in cooked foods. Catnip leaves and flowers can be used fresh or dried to make a calming herbal tea. If making tea, it should be infused in a closed container in order to preserve the essential oils. Seeds and roots can also be used.