The Shamrock: a 3-Leaf Clover, is the national flower of Ireland and one of the county's most recognised and most loved national symbols. The word shamrock comes from the Irish word seamróg or seamair óg, meaning 'little clover'.
The four leaf clover is a universally accepted symbol of good luck with its origin ages old. One leaf is for hope, the second for faith, the third for love and the fourth for luck!
The tradition of wearing and 'drowning' the Shamrock on Saint Patrick's Day can be traced back to the early 1700s. For good luck, it is usually included in the bouquet of an Irish bride, and also in the boutonniere of the groom.
Before the arrival of the Christians to Ireland the plant was sacred to the Irish Druids because the three leaves formed a triad. According to legend, Eve carried a four leaf clover from the Garden of Eden and St. Patrick used the Shamrock leaf to illustrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity - Three Persons in One God.
St. Patrick, born in Britain as Maewyn Succat in 387 AD and fathered by a Roman officer, was sent to Ireland in 432 as a missionary to convert the masses to Christianity.
His most famous legend, that he drove the snakes from Ireland, is really a metaphor for driving the Druids, the shaman and magicians of the Celts from the Green Isle. He died in 461 AD on March 8 or March 9. Because no agreement could be reached on which day he died, the holiday is celebrated on the 17th of March, the sum of 8 and 9.
Unfortunately, there is no 4-Leaf Clover seed to plant. They just appear now and then in fields of 3-leaf clover. A good way of identifying a real four-leaf clover is that the fourth leaf is usually smaller than the other three leaves. The odds of finding a 4-leaf clover is estimated at 10,000 to 1.
Snakes don't seem to bother it, so I guess the magic still holds.
Sow at any time of year. Sow August to early November for plants ready for St Patricks Day – March 17th
Seeds can be sown in small pots or trays using any moist, well drained soil mix. For best results, using a packaged seed starting mix is recommended.
The seeds which are very small should be distributed on the moist soil surface and lightly covered with additional soil. The pot or tray should be placed in a warm shaded location until the seeds have germinated, which will be in about a week. Keep the soil moist and do not allow soil to dry out.
After the seeds germinate and leaves appear move to a sunny location.
When two or three clover leaves have formed, you can begin fertilising with an all-purpose fertiliser at the recommended rate for the container. If necessary, thin-out weak plants. Plants should fill out in 6 to 8 weeks.
Transplant to a larger container when roots appear out the bottom of the pot or tray. Be careful not to damage the roots when transplanting. After transplanting continue fertilization as before.
Keep plants well watered (make sure container drains well) and keep in a sunny location. Try to keep tips in contact with the soil and remove any damaged leaves. "Runners" that extend over the pot or tray edge can be cut off at the soil surface. Although the runners that grow over the edge will eventually wither and die off if they can't root.
Outdoor care is the same as indoor care, except increase the fertilization to the recommended outdoor amount for container plants. Clover can also be planted in outdoor beds and wildflower meadows.
Shamrocks growing tall and spindly is usually a result of not enough light or they are too warm. If the leaves are yellowing is it usually a sign of over watering.
Shamrocks do not get along with other houseplants in mixed pots. They are best grown with just other shamrocks all together in a crowded pot.
Trifolium grow tired now and again and begin to look a bit droopy and the leaves turn brown. Stop watering, relocate them to a darker place while the dormant period lasts. Dormancy usually occurs a few times each year lasting 2 to 3 months. A good time to repot them would be after they've been dormant.
A National Flower:
Shamrock is the national flower but not an official emblem in the Republic of Ireland – the state emblem, is the 12-stringed harp. However the green trefoil is registered under international trade-mark conventions as a symbol of Ireland. Shamrocks do not appear on Irish coins, bank-notes or postage stamps, as a rule.
In the Royal arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the shamrock represents Northern Ireland, alongside the floral emblems of England (rose), Scotland (thistle) and Wales (daffodil).
It was fashionable from about 1800 onwards to use shamrock as a decorative motive on buildings - even churches - lamp-posts, furniture, even on clothes, but the great 'explosion' in their use was after 1820 when almost anything of Irish connection had trefoils on them. The national flower is emblazoned upon the chests of the Irish Republic's football and rugby teams, the tail fins of its national airline, Aer Lingus, and the stationery of the Irish Tourist Board.
St Patrick’s Day celebrations, March 17th:
The custom of wearing shamrock dates from the late 1600s. In those days it was normal to wear shamrock in your hat, not on your breast.
The festivities associated with St Patrick's Day frequently include convivial drinking - this has been so for many, many decades. In 1726 Dr Threlkeld frowned upon the 'drowning' of the shamrock, undoubtedly it was a much-loved custom then.
The health-giving properties of shamrock have long been known to the Irish. On his travels, Gerard the herbalist noted that the plant was being used as a medicine, mixed with a fat from a "barrow" or male, neutered pig. He wrote: "The leaves boiled with a little barrowe's grease, and used as a poultice, take away hot swellings and inflammations."
Intensive farming methods have put pressure on the shamrock, crowding it out and dowsing its foliage with unwanted chemicals. But now, with a move away from intensive production and the return to a more easy-going farming regime, the shamrock is beginning to reclaim many of its native fields.
You will find it best in the unimproved grasslands, the ones that haven't been reseeded and copiously fertilised but it is very much a constituent part of the grassland of Ireland.
The genus name Trifolium means having three leaves. The species name repens means 'creeping or spreading'.
Shamrock is the English form of the Irish word seamrog which literally translated means 'little clover' or 'young clover' (the Irish word is a compound formed from seamair , meaning ‘clover’ and og meaning ‘young or small’. Shamrock was first clearly used as a plant name by the English herbalist, John Gerard, in 1596 when he wrote that meadow trefoils are called Shamrockes.
It was once a fodder crop, known to farmers as Sucking Clover.
The “True” Shamrock:
Many trefoils (Three leaved plants) are used in place of Shamrock, including various members of the Oxalis family. The use of Oxalis regnellii is an American convention foisted upon the horticulturally uninitiated by the greenhouse industry.
Gardeners will know the shamrock as Trifolium dubium, and white clover as Trifolium repens. Growers of Irish Shamrock plants place emphasis on seed purity. Trifolium simply refers to the fact that it is a three-leafed plant; while Dubium, with its small, pure green leaves is a named variety of shamrock.
White clover is a close relation of the shamrock and in the true tradition of the family; the clover cousin will turn up where it is not wanted, leaving purists to wince at the sight of a white-tinged clover amongst the more delicate shamrock leaves!
- Additional Information
Family Leguminosae Genus Trifolium Species dubium Cultivar Wildflower of Britain and Ireland Common Name Lesser trefoil, Seamar bhuí,
Wildflower of Britain and Ireland
Other Common Names Sucking clover Other Language Names IR - Seamar bhuí Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Down to -15°C (5°F). Flowers Yellow Flowers Natural Flower Time Mid Summer to Late Summer Foliage Dark green leaves Height 5 to 15cm (2 to 6in) Position Full sun or partial shade. Harvest March 16th ! Time to Sow Sow August to early November for plants ready for St Patricks Day – March 17th Germination around 7 days