Scientific Name: Nepeta cataria

Common Name: catnip

Other Common Names: field balm, catmint, catwort

Habit: This erect perennial can grow up to 5 ft in height, and flowers from June to September. It propagates both through seeds, and also by spreading roots.

Leaves: The leaves grow on square, branched stems. The 1 to 2 1/2 inch leaves are hairy on both surfaces and silvery underneath. Leaves are heart shaped and have jagged edges. Both stems and leaves are covered with white hairs, and when crushed, leaves smell strongly of mint.

Identifying Characteristics: This plant contains the chemical nepetalactone, which is concentrated in special glands on the leaf surfaces. It is this chemical that attracts cats to this plant. Catnip is also used in tea as a sedative or put in salads. The strong odor and white hairs are identification characteristics.

Flower Seed Head: Flowers occur in thick spikes at the ends of stems and branches. Individual flowers are whitish with lavender spots.

Seed Fruit: Fruit is dark brown with short hairs and 1.3 to 1.5 mm long. The small, black seeds are less than 1 mm in diameter.

Where Found: This plant is native to Europe and Asia, but has naturalized in North America. It prefers full sun, and dry soil in both waste and cultivated land.

  • Life cycle: biennial

  • Milky sap: Not Present

  • Plant type: Herb

  • Thorns: Not Present

  • Plant family: Lamiaceae

  • Leaf arrangement: opposite

  • Leaf shape: heart

  • Ochrea: Not Present

  • Leaf margin: serrated

  • Stem hairs: has hairs

  • Flower color: white; pink; purple

  • Growth habit: upright and nonwoody

  • Stem: square or multi-edged

  • Leaf structure: simple

  • Leaf hairs: has hairs

  • Flower diameter: pencil; dime

  • Flower symmetry: bilateral symetry

  • Root structure: rhizomes present

  • Leaf stalk: shorter than leaf