Seed of the Week: Catnip

We found the seeds for mystery seed last week in an unusual place. I noticed that the dried catnip (Nepeta cataria) we had purchased looked like it contained some flower calyxes.

The calyx is a tube-shaped structure formed from the sepals around the bottom of the flower. Curious, I tore open some of the brown ones (I assumed those were more mature) and sure enough there were seeds inside.

The seeds were in a cluster. As you can see from this painting by Jacob Sturm from 1796, the seeds are known to have two white marks.

(Image was downloaded from Wikipedia)

Catnip plants belong to the mint family, and thus have the characteristic square-shaped stem. They are originally from Europe, but were carried to North America by colonists (probably with their cats 🙂 ). Now they readily grow wild from seed and can be considered to be a weed.

The plants get their name from the fact that many cats find the plants attractive, like this one that rolled in the dried catnip I had set out to photograph. Scientists have discovered a chemical in the plant, nepetalactone, is what attracts the cats. The same chemical is a proven insect repellent. Guess that cat won’t have fleas or mosquitoes now.

The next step is to find out whether the dried seeds are still viable.

Have you ever grown catnip? Does your cat like catnip?


  1. Sissy

    Hello, I found the same tube shaped flower with the seeds that I purchased from Big Lots. The seeds hatched into little larvae that can be seen using a flashlight at night so I freaked out a started searching around and I found a lot. I collected quite a bit in a jar and the began Cleaning all night. Any thoughts to what they are? I have been search online and found your pictures. I haven’t been able to sleep and have been frantically searching my home. I plan on Calling Big Lots Corporate Office in the morning.
    Any information is greatly appreciated.

  2. Roberta


    Take a deep breath. Be calm. This is a temporary setback.

    There are several insects that can feed on stored food, pet food, and herbs. They are called “stored products pests.” Some are moths and some are beetles. The good news is that it is easy to get rid of them. Simply throw out the infested product. If you want to save the product, then keep it in the freezer, which kills the insects.

    If the insects are moths, sometimes the larvae will crawl out of the product to pupate. They aren’t actually feeding, just looking for a place to hide and turn into moths. In that case, just make sure you keep all grains and herbs in closed containers for a few weeks and clean up any spills. If you have anything that can’t be sealed up, stick it in the freezer. The bottom line is that the insects can not survive without access to food, so they will be gone shortly.

    Good luck!

  3. Sissy

    Thank you very much, I feel so much better after reading your information. I did contact big lots customer service to make them aware of the situation and I also took my live sample jar to my local big lots and showed the manager. He had s seen them before and said I made his night so let’s see what happens. Thanks again

  4. Roberta

    Glad they listened to you.

  5. Alexander Amos

    I found catnip plants in our backyard where no body grew them!
    They are considered as weeds, thank you for the post.
    I have to take a good care of them.

  6. Roberta

    Catnip is a fun plant to grow. I hope they do well for you.

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