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What's The Difference? Irish Shamrocks Vs. 4-Leaf Clovers
The clover that people use to represent shamrocks grows in central Europe and Asia, as well as throughout the US and Canada. Probably the best-known story about the humble shamrock is that St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, used the plant's three leaves to describe the Holy Trinity to nonbelievers while converting pagans to Catholicism.
The shamrock is more of a cultural reference — like roses representing England, leeks for Wales, and the thistle for Scotland. Three-leafed shamrocks or clovers appear in art, on buildings, and on decorative household items, and they have been a symbol for Irish culture and various political movements over the years.
The difference between Irish shamrocks and 4-leaf-clovers is just one leaf. No matter which plant is called upon to represent shamrocks — clover, wood sorrel, or medick — all have three leaves.
The reason a clover plant develops a fourth leaf is because of genetic mutation. Wired indicates that while scientists are studying clover, they haven't yet found the root cause of why the plant grows a fourth leaf, although some say environment and stress are probable factors.
Why are four-leaf clovers considered lucky? Well, you'd be lucky if you found one, as Garden Collage estimates that one in 10,000 normal clover plants produces a four-leaf version. Additionally, traditions reaching back to the Celts and Druids say carrying a four-leaf clover would ward off evil spirits.