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Catnip

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Catnip
Catnip cover photo.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species
Catnip tall.jpg
Catnip in full view

Catnip are a number of species of perennial herbs belonging to the taxonomic genus Nepeta from the family Lamiaceae (the mint family).[1] There are four species in the genus Nepeta.

As implied from the name, Catnip has something to do with cats. Cats are very attracted to this plant because it releases a fragrant chemical into the air when bruised. The chemical is like a drug to them. When they smell the plant, they cannot function properly. The cats will roll in the plant if near enough. If the plant is not bruised, cats will not come because the attractive chemical has not been released. To prevent Catnips' from being destroyed, they should be fenced from a young age. There are many uses for this plant which mainly include medicinal purposes. It is known for its soothing oils.

Body Design

The heart shaped leaves of Catnip

Catnip is characterized by its small, white, purple, pink, or blue flowers. The flowers are clumped together at the top of the plant. The plant itself can grow up to 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide.[2] Catnip is common, especially in North America. It looks like an average plant that doesn't have anything really to stand out. One might even mistake it for a weed. These plants have known to be to scented which attract cats. It has a minty fragrance. Catnip produces Nepetalactone, which is a chemical that allures a cat by its smell. The chemical affects many cats' brains. [3] The plant is covered with green leaves and looks like a shrub. The leaves of the plant resemble mint leaves. They have square shaped, stems with blades of leaves that have pointed edges. The stems are straight and erect. Each leaf has soft, short hairs on it, especially located underneath the leaf.

Life Cycle

The catnip's life cycle is perennial. Perennial means that they live for a very long time. They can live for many years and come in bloom every year. These types of plants are easy to take care of because they don't need too much attention and they last a long time. The one thing they do desperately need is sun. They need to be in a sunny area to survive. Catnip can grow best in damp soil. It should not be completely dry but it should still have some moisture to it. Their growing season starts from June to September. Reproduction can be completed by division of the plant in early spring or hand sown into the soil. [4]

Ecology

Catnip flowers surrounded by its leaves

Catnip can be found almost everywhere but it originated in Europe. From that point on it spread across the world. They are a common plant and appear to be self-growing. It can grow in almost any condition or soil.

When the plant is young, it should be enclosed in a fence because cats might come and destroy it. If the plant is not bruised or broken, the cats will not come. When the plant is bruised, it releases chemicals into the air which attracts the cat to come and smell it.[5] They seem to roll in it whenever they come. Catnip can be used for multiple reasons including as a herbal tea due to its soothing properties. But, it is not necessarily soothing for cats. It is like a drug for them. It attracts them but it affects their brain and they can't function correctly. Cats aren't the only creatures attracted to Catnip, bees are as well because of its flowers. [6]

Uses of Catnip

Catnip is mainly used for medicinal purposes. It can be used to treat almost all aches and cuts. It can also act as a remedy for respiratory infections. Young Catnip leaves can be eaten bare. They add some mint flavor to any food of choice. They can be added minimally to salads. When drunk with tea, Catnip can cure minor colds and coughs. [7] Catnip causes sweat which aids in reducing fevers by creating heat and moisture. This plant is used for all ages when it comes to external or internal problems. It can be very helpful for children who are restless. If drunken in a tea, it can calm the children down and put them at ease. Catnip is not only edible but can also be used for external purposes. When applied to the skin, it can relieve irritations. As catnip is crushed, oil is released. The oil can be used for aroma therapy. It can also be used as an insect repellent. [8]

Video

The affects of Catnip on cats.

Gallery

References

  1. What is Catnip? fabcats. Web. Accessed on May 23, 2012 Unknown Author.
  2. Beaulieu, David. Catnip Plants or Catmint (Nepeta Cataria) About.com. Web. Accessed on May 9, 2012.
  3. What does catnip look like A thinking person's blog about cats. Web. Published on June 7, 2008. Unknown Author
  4. Brown, Ellen. Growing: Catnip (Catmint) ThriftyFun. Web. Published on March 23, 2012.
  5. Catnip herbs.com. Web. Accessed on May 9, 2012. Unknown Author
  6. Brown, Ellen. Growing: Catnip (Catnip) ThriftyFun. Web. Published on March 23, 2012.
  7. Brown, Ellen. Growing: Catnip (Catmint) ThriftyFun. Web. Published on March 23, 2012.
  8. Bergeron, Karen. Catnip Alternative Nature Online Herbal. Web. Accessed on May 9, 2012.