Nepeta cataria is a perennial herb to 1 m tall from a taproot, stem branched above, crushed leaves aromatic but not strongly “minty”, most parts densely softly gray-hairy.
Leaves opposite, to 8 cm long, egg to heart-shaped, tip pointed, base blunt to lobed, margin coarsely toothed, white-hairy below, stalk half as long as blade.
Flowers whitish with pink or purple spots, to 1.2 cm long, bilaterally symmetrical, tubular, 2-lipped, lower lip 3-lobed, finely toothed.
Fruit dry, 4 nutlets; blooms and fruits July-Oct.
Wetland status: FACU.
Frequency in NYC: Infrequent.
Habitat: Disturbed, open habitats.
Notes: Aromatic sap of crushed or dry plants, contains the monoterpene lactone, nepetalactone, that is infamously attractive to domestic cats (Felis domestica). This compound is also a pheromone secreted by the female vetch aphid (Myoura viciae). Another study has shown this compound acts as a deterrent to herbivorous insects (Harborne 1988).