Lucky Shamrocks

Red clover, purple clover, please turn a fourth leaf over.

| February/March 2002

  • Trifolium ‘Green Ice’
    Photo by Jerry Pavia
  • Trifolium dubium (Hop clover)
    Photo by Jerry Pavia
  • Trifolium pratense (Red clover)
    Photo by Jerry Pavia
  • Oxalis ‘Purple shamrock’
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • Trifolium repens‘Atropurpureum’
    Photo by Jerry Pavia

Clover is a reminder of luck. Even with only three leaves, it is known for bringing luck and more. And don’t think your luck will change by planting a four-leafed variety in your garden. Legend says the luck is only obtainable if you come across a four-leaf clover accidentally.

Trifolium includes 230 species of potentially luck-bearing plants. These members of the Leguminosae family usually have pea-like flowers; however, not all trifolium have three leaves. Trifolium repens ‘Purpurascens Quadrifolium’ has four leaflets attached to each stem, and T. r. ‘Quinquefolium’ usually has five. In addition, one particular trifolium is believed to have several health benefits. The flower of red clover (Trifolium pratense) has traditionally been used as a blood purifier, diuretic, general tonic, and as a folk remedy for cancer because of its ability to eliminate toxins. This herb contains phytoestrogens and research continues on its potential use as an aid to menopausal women.

Other shamrock-type plants come from the 800 members of the Oxalis genus. This collection includes stemmed and stemless herbs and shrubs that usually have three leaves (some with one lobe, others with two lobes). Many oxalis fold down their leaves at night (unlike the palmate leaves of trifolium). Most of them have beautiful bright flowers, but make sure you are well aware of the nature of your Oxalis variety. They are prone to take over and instead of hunting for four-leaf clovers, you’ll be out to kill them as weeds.

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