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The Difference Between the Shamrock and Four-Leaf Clover

Deborah is a research enthusiast! She takes special interest in the world's ancient mysteries.

the-difference-between-the-shamrock-and-four-leaf-clover

They are both green! Both are members of the clover plant. One is rooted in Irish tradition! They are commonly associated with one another, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. The four-leaf clover has four leaves, hence its name. The Shamrock has three! They are similar but the difference is in number as well as tradition. The Shamrock origins, stem(no pun intended) from the tradition of St. Patrick. While the four-leaf clover is associated with good luck.

The Shamrock is the green clover, regularly spotted on St. Patrick's Day.

The Shamrock is the green clover, regularly spotted on St. Patrick's Day.

The Shamrock

St. Patrick was a Christian missionary who brought Christianity to the Irish in the 5th century. Now the patron Saint of Ireland, many legends surround St. Patrick including that of the Shamrock. St. Patrick used the clover plant, known as the Shamrock, as a way to explain the holy trinity. The Shamrock has three leaves, each leaf represented the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Converts wore the shamrock to display their faith during the “Holy Feast.” The Saint Patrick’s feast day became the official Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day in 1903. The Shamrock became part of the colorful tradition of St. Patrick’s Day, because after all, one must wear green.

According to legend, St. Patrick used the Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. Converts wore the Shamrock during the Holy Feast.

According to legend, St. Patrick used the Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. Converts wore the Shamrock during the Holy Feast.

The Four-Leaf Clover

Although the shamrock and Lucky Clover are both from the white clover plant, one has four leaves. The four-leaf clover is believed to most likely be a genetic mutation, of a variety of white clover, known as “Trifolium Repens.” Trifolium means three-leafed. Generally, all leaves of the stem are the same size.

The cause of what causes four leaves remains a mystery, but it is thought that a recessive trait in the white clover plant causes an unusual amount of leaves to sprout, usually four, because the recessive trait is inherited from both its parents. It is sometimes thought that warm weather encourages the sprouting of the four-leaf clover.

  • The four-leaf clover is rare but not impossible to find. Commonly 1-10,000 stems will have a four-leaf mutation, but where there is one there are others.
The Lucky Clover is a white clover that has four leaves instead of three.

The Lucky Clover is a white clover that has four leaves instead of three.

Shamrock Symbol

The significance of the Shamrock dates back thousands of years. The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic word Seamrog meaning “Little Clover.” The little clover also has a reputation for being a source of luck, and was used in ancient traditions. The number of leaves carries a special for the Shamrock. In ancient Celtic rituals and folklore, triads and the number three was considered spiritually significant. St. Patrick is believed to have presented the meaning of the three leaves to say that “God could be one entity and three at the same time.” This special little clover has become an Iron clad symbol of Irish heritage and culture. The three leafed clover resides on the Irish flag Erin Go Bragh, meaning “Ireland forever.” The meaning of the clover can vary, some view each leaf as symbolizing faith, love, and hope.


The Shamrock is often confused with the four-leaf clover. This image of the Shamrock girl, bears the Lucky Clover in the top right hand corner of the picture.

The Shamrock is often confused with the four-leaf clover. This image of the Shamrock girl, bears the Lucky Clover in the top right hand corner of the picture.

The Four Leaves

The four-leaf clover is a good luck symbol, based that it is lucky to find a four leaf-clover. The leaves of the lucky clover also have special significance. Each leaf represents, hope, faith, love and the fourth leaf are luck. Some believe the leaves represent fame, wealth, love, and health.

The lucky clover has repeatedly been associated with the shamrock. The fourth leaf, is considered at times, to mean God’s grace, but the meaning of the lucky clover does not share the same origins as the Shamrock. Though both are seen as a symbol of good fortune, they are a distinctly different. The four- leaf clover is a symbol of magic. It is possible to find a lucky clover, in the sea of green clover fields, but it is rare. The four-leafed clover is indeed a lucky find.

  • Children and adults would hang a four-leaf clover over their door to ward off bad omens, witchcraft and evil spirits that may be affecting their family.
The four leaves of the Lucky Clover are commonly believed to represent, love, faith, hope and luck.

The four leaves of the Lucky Clover are commonly believed to represent, love, faith, hope and luck.

Legend of The Lucky Clover

The Four-leaf Clover can be found in legend and ancient superstitions. The lucky clover has been considered lucky for centuries. In the middle ages it was believed a person who carried a rare four-leaf clover would have the ability to see fairies. The lucky bearer of the four-leaf clover could also recognize witches and potential evil spirits as well. It was also believed to be true protection against the evil eye.

According to a Christian legend, Eve brought a four-leaf clover with her when she was expelled from paradise, with the desire to keep a piece of the blessed place. Four is also thought of as a significant number to Christians, because it is the number of the cross.

In the Middle Ages it was believed a person carrying a four-leaf clover had the ability to see fairies.

In the Middle Ages it was believed a person carrying a four-leaf clover had the ability to see fairies.

This St. Patrick’s Day you may wear either a Shamrock or Lucky Clover! Both are green. If you prefer the luck of the Irish, the shamrock is best. If you wish for a bit of magic, the luck of the four-leaf clover is a good pick.

the-difference-between-the-shamrock-and-four-leaf-clover

Cited Sources:

https://holiday.com/holidays/Wearing-green-on-ST-Patricks-Day

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx6cqiXYPCg

https://tenontours.com/shamrocks-and-four-leaf-clovers-whats-the-difference/

https://goodlucksymbols.com/four-leaf-clover/

Comments

Lori on March 14, 2020:

Great Read..thank you!

Larry Slawson from North Carolina on March 16, 2019:

Never realized this before. Thank you for sharing.

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