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Nepeta cataria – "true catnip"
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Subfamily: Nepetoideae
Tribe: Mentheae
Genus: Nepeta
L. (1753)
  • Afridia Duthie (1898)
  • Cataria Adans. (1793)
  • Hymenocrater Fisch. & C.A.Mey. (1836)
  • Lophanthus Adans. (1763)
  • Marmoritis Benth. (1833)
  • Oxynepeta Bunge (1878)
  • Phyllophyton Kudô (1929)
  • Pitardia Batt. ex Pit. (1918)
  • Pseudolophanthus Levin (1941)
  • Saccilabium Rottb. (1778)
  • Saussuria Moench (1794)
  • Schizonepeta (Benth.) Briq. (1896)
  • Vleckia Raf. (1808)

Nepeta is a genus of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae. The genus name, from Latin nepeta (“catnip”), is reportedly in reference to Nepete, an ancient Etruscan city.[2] There are 295 accepted species.[1]

The genus is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and has also naturalized in North America.[3]

Some members of this group are known as catnip or catmint because of their effect on house cats – the nepetalactone contained in some Nepeta species binds to the olfactory receptors of cats, typically resulting in temporary euphoria.[4]


Most of the species are herbaceous perennial plants, but some are annuals. They have sturdy stems with opposite heart-shaped, green to gray-green leaves.[5] Nepeta plants are usually aromatic in foliage and flowers.

The tubular flowers can be lavender, blue, white, pink, or lilac, and spotted with tiny lavender-purple dots. The flowers are located in verticillasters grouped on spikes; or the verticillasters are arranged in opposite cymes, racemes, or panicles – toward the tip of the stems.[5]

The calyx is tubular or campanulate, they are slightly curved or straight, and the limbs are often 2-lipped with five teeth. The lower lip is larger, with 3-lobes, and the middle lobe is the largest. The flowers have 4 hairless stamens that are nearly parallel, and they ascend under the upper lip of the corolla. Two stamen are longer and stamens of pistillate flowers are rudimentary. The style protrudes outside of the mouth of the flowers.[5]

The fruits are nutlets, which are oblong-ovoid, ellipsoid, ovoid, or obovoid in shape. The surfaces of the nutlets can be slightly ribbed, smooth or warty.[5]


295 species are accepted.[1]




Some Nepeta species are cultivated as ornamental plants. They can be drought tolerant – water conserving, often deer repellent, with long bloom periods from late spring to autumn. Some species also have repellent properties to insect pests, including aphids and squash bugs, when planted in a garden.[2]

Nepeta species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species including Coleophora albitarsella, and as nectar sources for pollinators, such as honey bees and hummingbirds.

Selected ornamental species
  • Nepeta cataria (catnip, catswort) – the "true catnip", cultivated as an ornamental plant, has become an invasive species in some habitats.
  • Nepeta grandiflora (giant catmint, Caucasus catmint) – lusher than true catnip and has dark green leaves and dark blue flowers.
  • Nepeta × faassenii (garden catmint) – a hybrid of garden source with gray-green foliage and lavender flowers. It is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant.[2] The cultivar 'Walker's Low' was named Perennial of the Year for 2007 by the Perennial Plant Association.[6][7]
  • Nepeta racemosa (raceme catnip) – commonly used in landscaping.[6] It is hardy, rated for USDA hardiness zone 5b.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Nepeta L. Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
  2. ^ a b c Missouri Botanical Garden: Nepeta × faassenii. Accessed January 10, 2013
  3. ^ Leon L. Bram (1983). Robert S. Phillips, Norma H. Dickey (ed.). Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. ISBN 978-0-8343-0051-4.
  4. ^ Herron, Scott (2003). "Catnip, Nepeta cataria, a Morphological Comparison of Mutant and Wild Type Specimens to Gain an Ethnobotanical Perspective". Economic Botany. 57 (1): 135–142. doi:10.1663/0013-0001(2003)057[0135:cncamc]2.0.co;2. S2CID 29287116.
  5. ^ a b c d "Nepeta". Flora of China. 17: 107.
  6. ^ a b "ornamental Outlook".
  7. ^ "msucares.com: sgnews".
  8. ^ Richard G. Hawke. "Chicago Botanic Garden Plant Evaluation Notes" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-10-10.

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