The soft, downy, grey leaves and the downy, four-angled stems of catnip would point it out if nothing else identified this plant with the clusters of grey-white flowers. But when one crushes a leaf or smooths a stem, the aromatic odor which springs forth tells at once that this is catnip, beloved by felines everywhere. Both the Latin and the common names concede to the admiration which cats have for any portion of fresh or dried catnip, for this is a recognized quality, not a fable - it really does attract cats.
Nepeta cataria L.
Perhaps it was for the benefit of the early cats which were brought along as pets and rat-catchers to the New World that the first catnip was brought from Europe, for this is a naturalized herb from Europe. Wherever it is planted and wherever it grows and it was first of all planted in early herb gardens in America cats seek it out. With a beatific expression, they roll in it. nibble it. purr loudly, yowl, walk around it and, grinning toothily, roll in it once again. Dried catnip often is placed in imitation mice or balls, and cats will play with these for hours.
But catnip was not only tor the benefit of cats. It has been used as a popular home remedy for infant colic The leaves were brewed in hot water a- a tea. and even today catnip tea is given for stomach ache or is drunk simply as a refreshing afternoon beverage.
Catnip is a grey plant. The leaves are a greenish-grey, the stems are decidedly grey, the flowers are grey-white with tiny purplish speckles, and the entire plant, flowers, seeds, leaves and root, has that aromatic odor which mean- catnip and no other plant in the world.