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Plant of the Month: July 2004

Cat Thyme

Teucrium Marum L.

LABIATÆ (LAMIACEÆ); Mint Family

    Cat lovers take note. This herb is nirvana to cats. Its potent fragrance makes cats loll about in ecstasy. Forget about weak yet better known cat mint (Nepeta spp.). But despite its value as a cat pleaser, and its charming beauty, it is very little known. Hence this article.
    Cat Thyme was named Teucrium Marum in 1753 by Linnaeus. Teucrium is a widespread genus of more than 100 species of herbs and shrubs. Teucrium Marum inhabits islands of the Mediterranean Sea. Marum is its ancient Greek name; Italians call the plant Erba dei gatti; in French it is Gazon de chat or herbe aux chats. The English name Cat Thyme makes sense because the habitat, form and scale recall very closely its cousin Thymus vulgaris. In effect it is fair to call it Catnip Plant. Carry a dried piece with you, and as you come across a cat, offer a whiff in order to win the feline's heart.
    The species is accustomed to full sun, minimal freezing, well-draining lime soil. Most gardeners will do best to plant it on a small mound of gritty sand. It needs no watering, but tolerates it. The largest specimens I know are at the University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden, fully 2 feet tall and wider still. Their bases are woody and stiff, recalling lavender plants. The foliage is evergreen. Overall the plant appears gray-green.
    Close inspection reveals that the stems are cottony white with dense, very fine hairs, the leaves are white-hairy beneath, contrastingly dark green on top, only about a forth of an inch long. Atop the stems, plump flowerbuds are fuzzy, their transparent hairs making them paler than the leaves. Each leaf will bear one or two flowers of small size but a pretty magenta color reminiscent of that of fireweed/willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium). It blooms in summer.
    At the University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden, I have watched the Cat Thyme plants for over 20 years and never noted self-sown seedlings. It is reproduced easily by cuttings, and several mail-order nurseries sell plants.
    Other plants are also known as cat attractants. Examples include Nepeta Cataria, and several species of kiwi vine, such as Actinidia polygama. If you care to grow Cat Thyme, you may need to containerize it or fence it until it becomes firmly rooted, lest cats destroy it. Also, note that the odor repels certain people. Some of us enjoy it or do not mind it.

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Teucrium Marum

Teucrium Marum scan by ALJ




Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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