We’re seeing a lot of shamrocks today because they’re a symbol of St. Patrick and the national emblem of Ireland.
The shamrock looks like a clover leaf and that got me wondering … Which clover is the real shamrock?
According to Wikipedia, the answer goes so far back in history that no one is sure. Some botanists claimed it was a clover species (Trifolium sp.), others said wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella). The best answers came from the Irish themselves.
Two surveys were conducted in Ireland about 100 years apart, in 1893 and 1988, asking for the identity of the shamrock plant. About 50% of the respondents said it was lesser clover (Trifolium dubium), shown below. Imported to North America, we call it “least hop clover.”
About 30% of respondents voted for white clover (Trifolium repens) as the true shamrock. This is the familiar clover found in traditional lawns (those not treated with broadleaf weed killer).
Don’t be fooled by four-leaf clovers. They aren’t real shamrocks because …
St. Patrick used the shamrock’s 3 leaflets to illustrate the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Ghost — and thus convert the Irish to Christianity.
So celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a three-leaf clover: least hop or white.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)
One thought on “Which Plant is the Real Shamrock?”
But….but…the Wikimedia shamrock doesn’t look like either the white or the least hop. I’m still confused.