Shamrocks are the official plant of St. Patricks Day symbolizing the country of Ireland. History and folklore state St. Patrick used the three-leaved plant to explain the concept of God being three in one: father, son and holy spirit. He used Ireland’s native clover(Trifolium repens) commonly called shamrock to give a visual to the idea for the spreading of Christianity. Today a similar shamrock-looking plant, Oxalis, is sold as ornamental houseplants to celebrate the holiday, adding a bit of the green to our homes when it is sorely needed at the end of winter.

Two colored Oxalis.

Plant breeders have even found a way to add a little purple in this ‘shamrock’ plant for sale at the local grocery store. I wonder what St. Patrick would think!

White clover. photo White-clover-leaf1 MSU.edu

White clover (Trifolium repens), has become a widespread common lawn weed in the United States. Normally it has only three leaves, but occasionally the plant produces a fourth leaf proclaiming to provide luck to its finder. Many a child has spent a busy afternoon searching for their own four leaved clover to press between the pages of a book to preserve it. Clover is a fascinating plant in the legume or pea family Fabaceae which takes nitrogen from the air and deposits it in nodules on the roots. When the plant dies and breaks down naturally, the nitrogen is slowly released for other nearby plants to use. Clover is great for building soil nutrients and adding a bit of luck to your garden or lawn.

Oxalis stricta, photo from Umass.edu

Oxalis or yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta), is another lawn weed reminiscent of shamrocks with its trifoliate leaves. It is the wild cousin of the well-bred Oxalis houseplants. This one has yellow flowers rather than the white, and is a native annual that sometimes lives through a mild winter.

I wish you luck in finding your shamrocks on this St Patrick’s Day!

photo Idaho.gov

-Carol Quish