Nepeta x faassenii

Mint / Dead-Nettle Family [Lamiaceae]

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28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
Grows with ascending stems to 1.2m. This plant may be much taller because it might have been forced to grow up through the hedge until it finds daylight (unless the ground is higher on the other side).

28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
Flowers in lax and elongated whorls up the stem.

28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
Flowers a darker-lilac or pinkish-purple colour.

28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
Spent flowers turn first blue before becoming fawn coloured. There are 5 petals, the largest being the lower lobe, two side-wings and two flaps at the top. The bottom lobe has many rounded teeth (I count ~8 here): very distinctive; there cannot be many flowers which have this feature.

28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
The flowers emerge from a long tubular sepal-tube which is in a slight S-curve. The sepal tube is a dark-magenta with short hairs and 5 teeth, the two longest at the top.

28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
The stems have short hairs, are square and get narrower at every leaf-pair junction

28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
The style is longer than the stamens, is concolorous with the petals and forks at the end like a snakes tongue. There are 4 nearby and redder filaments with dark-blue anthers. The flower has darker-purple spots near the centre-line, largest at the lowest lobe where some longer white hairs emerge.

28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
Both stem and leaves are greyish-green with short hairs and feel soft to the touch. The stem usually branches in opposite pairs just above a leaf junction.

28th June 2010, Photo: © Bastiaan Brak
The leaves are in opposite-pairs, ovate-oblong in shape and truncate to cuneate at the base. Teeth are lobed in shape with blunt tips. Net-veined with short stalks.

Easily mistaken for : Catmint (Nepeta cataria) which grows to a similar 1m height, but the hairs are denser although the leaves are a similar grey-green. When crushed the leaves smell of mint as do those of Garden Catmint. But the flowers are white with purplish spots.

It is the Hybrid of : Eastern Cat-mint (Nepeta racemosa) (which is shorter with shorter inflorescences too and is more decumbent) with Lesser Cat-mint (Nepeta nepetella) (which has no recorded presence in the UK but is found in Southern Spain). It is usually sterile, but fertile plants are said to exist. Thus it is not invasively rampant like other Catmints.

Some similarities to : Claries (Salvia) species such as Balkan Clary (Salvia nemorosa)but the leaves are totally different, except for those of Whorled Clary (Salvia verticillata) where the leaves are similar (but not identical).

No relation to : No relation to : numerous Cat's-tail grasses nor to Cat's-ears such as Spotted Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris maculata) or Smooth Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris glabra) or Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris radicata) [plants with similar names from differing families].


Garden Catmint is in the same genus as Cat-mint Nepeta cataria better known as Catnip, which contains Nepetalactone in greater abundance than in Garden Catmint. The odour of Catnip sends cats wild and into a state of euphoria until the smell senses are dulled by over-exposure. Cat-mint was once much more common as it spreads (it is not sterile like is Garden Cat-mint). All cat-mints will have some effect on cats, but Catnip Nepeta cataria contains more of the hypnotic (to cats) substance Nepetalactone. It is not only cats which nepetalactone effects in this way; Leopards, Cougars, Lynxes and Servals are also highly susceptible, but Lions and Tigers are less strongly affected and do not react consistently to the odour. Cats will also eat cat-nip, which also sends them wild with euphoria for between about 5 to 15 minutes, until olefactory fatigue sets in (as it does for humans - we become accustomed to a smell in a few minutes thereafter we are completely unable to smell it - until the next time we are exposed to the odour). But about a third of cats are totally immune to Nepetalactone showing no response at all. Your Authors' cats are like that; completely nonplussed. Cat-mint is not alone in plants which puts cats in an entranced state; Common Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) (both root or leaves), Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) and the exotic Silver Vine (aka Cat Powder) (Actinidia polygama). In the case of the latter, the response of susceptible cats is even stronger than it is with Cat-nip and fewer cats are immune to its effects. Cats who do not respond to cat-nip itself will usually respond to one of these other 3 plants, for they contain differing active substances.

In Common Valerian it is the substance Actinidine, which makes susceptible cats behave in a similar they do to Nepetalactone.

Nepetalactone is a sesquiterpene lactone whilst Actinidine is an iridoid alkaloid. The two are similar structurally, except that one has a nitrogen atom in the 6-membered ring and is an iridoid alkaloid, whilst the other is also an iridoid, but one which has an oxygen atom in place of the nitrogen atom. Other differences are also apparent, but it must be the structural similarities which bestow upon both the ability to send cats into a ecstatic trance by smell. Nepetalactone is present in all members of the Catmint genera Nepeta whilst Actinidine is present in Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica).

There are 5 other sesquiterpene lactones having the iridoid skeleton which are also present in both Catnip/Catmint and in Silver Vine which also affects (some) cats the same way. These compounds are: DiHydroNepetaLactone, IsoDiHydroNepetaLactone, NeoNepetaLactone, IridoMyrmecin and IsoIridoMyrmecin.

Some sources also say that the exotic foreign Silver Vine (Actinidia polygama) plant also has the same effect on (some) cats.

Cats which are immune to the effects of one of these plants may be entranced by one of the other two instead

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Nepeta x faassenii

Mint / Dead-Nettle Family [Lamiaceae]