Saint Patrick's Day is coming up, which means we're about to see a lot of people running to and fro wearing green garments, eating green donuts & drinking green beer. We're all about greenery over here, but our interest skews away from food coloring and more towards the chlorophyll side of things.
In that spirit, we'd like to shed some light on another major symbol of Saint Paddy and the Irish culture that he represents: that four-leafed bringer of luck, the Trifolium! Also known as the clover. But... wait a second, what is that?
What Is the Irish Shamrock?
The word shamrock comes from the Irish word seamróg, which means "little clover." There has been a lot of hemming and hawing throughout history about what species of plant holds the true title of Irish shamrock, and there is still no unanimous consensus. However, two separate botanical surveys of Ireland - one by Nathaniel Colgan from 1893 and one by E. Charles Nelson from 1988 - indicated that 85-91% of the Irish population considered the shamrock to be a member of the Trifolium genus - a clover. Be it yellow, white or red.
Considering this, it may come as a surprise that a majority of the imagery for Saint Patrick's Day and Irish culture contains no Trifolium leaf at all, but an Oxalis leaf! Species of the Oxalis genus are often confused for clover, and vice versa, since their leaves share the attribute of having three leaflets.
So, how do you tell Oxalis and Trifolium apart? We guarantee that once you know, you'll never mix them up! And we've decided to make it easy. Here is a side-by-side comparison:
Well, there you have it! We hope you have some fun identifying Oxalis & Trifolium on Saint Paddy's Day. And if you're drowning any shamrocks, stay safe out there!
Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia Of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: DK, 1996. Print.
Meletis, Chris D. Natural Health Magazine Complete Guide to Safe Herbs. New York: DK, 2002. Print.
Weiner, Michael A. Earth Medicine--earth Food: Plant Remedies, Drugs, and Natural Foods of the North American Indians. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991. Print.
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