On this St. Patrick’s Day, we wish you the luck of the Irish in finding the pot o’gold at the end of the rainbow. Perhaps that four-leaf clover that you’ve been saving will help.
But although lots of folks think four-leaf clovers are the symbol of Ireland, they are wrong.
“It’s the [smaller, three-leaf] shamrock, not a four-leaf clover,” explained John Ferguson, past president of the Mark Heffernan Division of Ancient Order of Hibernians in Akron, and the past director of the state chapter. “The shamrock is not indigenous to this country. Saying they are a totally different plant would be incorrect, but the Irish shamrock is difficult to grow in this country for some reason.
“People do it in hothouses, but the shamrocks that I have were sent to me from people I know in Ireland. You can’t get real Irish shamrocks, which represent the Trinity from a spiritual point of view, here.”
Ferguson, who is known as a seanchai, a traditional Irish storyteller and historian, came from Ireland to America when he was a wee boy.
“I was steeped in Irish culture,” said the Akron man, who has a popular Irish band known as Fergie and the Bog Dogs. “If I saw a poster with an advertisement for an Irish dance and I saw a four-leaf clover on it, I would know that they didn’t know what they were talking about.”
Whether our Irish brothers and sisters like it or not, lots of people do associate the four-leaf clover with the Emerald Isle — even if it’s wrong.
Mike Gerig of Wooster, whose ancestors were German, hadn’t thought much about whether clovers were connected to Ireland; he just liked finding them.
In 2012, Gerig found 200 four-leaf clovers while walking his dog, Timmy. That year he gave his wife, Judy, a bouquet of them for their 50th wedding anniversary. Last year, he only found about 25.
“The spring was warmer in 2012,” he reasoned.
Gerig’s father, Carl, a good Christian man, used to pick four-leaf clovers. To remind him of his dad, the younger Gerig keeps the clovers he doesn’t give away in a Bible that he uses daily.
Many people don’t want clover of any kind in their yards and spend good money to get rid of it, said Denise Ellsworth, program director in honeybee and native pollinator education at Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster.
“But the white variety is an awesome nectar source for bees,” she said. “It’s a great thing to have in the lawn from a pollinator’s perspective.’’
Find a four-leaf clover
If you have clover patches in your lawn, or visit parks and other spots that have clover, there are some techniques to try in spotting four-leaf clovers.
Identify the white clovers and look for the faint white lines on the tops of each leaf. The lines on the three-leaf variety will form a triangle, while a square will appear on a four-leaf clover (see the box with this story for videos with more information).
Training your eye to pick out the squares in a patch of triangles may not bring you luck, but it’s bound to impress your friends.
Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 or email@example.com.