Chuck R. from Grand Rapids, MI
Catnip and Catmint are not the same (although the two are often lumped together) but you're right, Catmint (Nepeta mussinii) is related to Catnip (Nepeta cataria). Botanically, both are in the genus Nepeta. To make things even more confusing, there is also Lesser Calamintha (Calamintha nepeta) a subspecies of catnip and several other varieties and hybrids in the Nepeta genus.
Many cats are attracted to both plants, but their response tends to be more intense to Catnip. The chemical responsible for their crazy behavior is called nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves, stems and flowers. The amount of this chemical found in each plant varies a bit by species. It seems that catnip has larger amounts of it and so attracts more felines. Incidentally, all members of the cat family (Felidae) are supposed to be attracted to it, so take care when giving it to lions and tigers. As for telling the two plants apart, Catnip generally has a taller, more upright growing habit, and Catmint tends to mound and has more pronounced purple/pink flowers.
I had catmint for years at my old house and I just loved it. My cat never went near it, she liked to lay amongst the daisies and catch grasshoppers!
The catmint that I had was "nepita" something, something. It had lovely purple flowers in the spring and they would last a very long time. But, like Robin said, it is invasive. It will take over your garden. I had catmint babies sprout up everywhere....I gave neighbors plants, I took little pots of catmint to plant exchanges, I placed pots of catmint at the road with a free sign, I even just yanked the little buggers and threw them out in the neighbors field, where they took root and started to grow! I would suggest to plant it far away from the rest of your garden, in an area that nothing else will grow, and let it have a life of its own.
It is also very hardy. I used a lawn mower to cut it down and it grew right back strong and healthy the next spring.
It's the equivilent to Marijuana for cats. They actually can get addicted quickly and become viscious when they don't get it when they want it, which gets more and more frequent. This is a fact most folks just don't know. Mint family or not, it's not a good thing for a cat or any pet, in my opinion. Stores that sell it just want big profits at the pet's expense, because it's so cheap/easy to grow in large amounts. It would be purposefully addicting an innocent animal
who depends upon it's owner to take good care of it
and protect it. I know you'll do the right thing. God
bless you. : )
An easy way to tell if something is in the mint family is by the shape of the stem. All mint family plants have "square" stems which you can easily feel with your finger tips.
Cat Mint and catnip are the same, I believe. It IS in the mint family, so plant it where it can be contained, as with ALL mints, as it is INVASIVE. I am in zone 7b, so the hardiness may differ. It is the devil(mint) to eradicate once established and spreading. Recommend a self- enclosed bed as along a driveway, or a pot.
Robin in Texas
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