“Extension on the Go” podcast by Debbie Johnson. Episode 163: Shamrocks
COLUMBIA, Mo. – You might know your green beer and Irish stew, but if you really want to show your Irish side, it’s all about the shamrock.
Shamrocks are linked to the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick.
“According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock to symbolize the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity to his congregation,” said Michele Warmund, a University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist. “Today, we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as the anniversary of his death and the shamrock represents the season of spring or the season of rebirth.”
True shamrocks are clover.
“If you’re Irish, then the true clover is the yellow-flowered one which is Trifolium dubium,” Warmund said.
There are over 300 species of clover and some carry a bit of luck. A four-leaf clover is traditionally considered good luck. Clover with four leaves is a naturally-occurring mutation in white clover, or Trifolium reopens. But, you have to be very lucky to find one.
“Out in your yard, white clover is common and it’s estimated that you can find one four-leaf clover for every 10,000 three-leaf clovers,” Warmund said.
But some agronomy researchers decided to make it easier to find some four-leaf clover luck.
“In the 1980s, researchers at the University of Florida, selecting and crossing plants, finally released the legendary ‘Good Luck’ white clover where about 50 percent of the plants grown from seed will actually have four leaflets,” Warmund said.
The research-bred four-leaf clover looks a bit different, Warmund said. The green leaves have a dark red center where leaflets connect to the stem.
You won’t find true shamrocks or potted four-leaf clover for sale at a local floral outlet. But you will find some imposters.
“The most common one that you can buy right now is called the ‘Lucky Shamrock Plant.’ It really is an imposter as a shamrock,” Warmund said. “It’s Oxalis regnellii. They have the three triangular green leaflets that are very large and they have very small, bell-shaped flowers.”
Oxalis regnellii are wood sorrels, and even though they’re not true shamrocks, they’re pretty houseplants.
“They thrive indoors – usually in the range of 70 to 75 degrees during the daylight hours – and they really like indirect light,” Warmund said.
They also like it cooler in the evening at temperatures ranging from 50 to 65 degrees, Warmund said.
The wood sorrels come in different colors. There those with green leaflets, but you can also find plants with purple and reddish-maroon leaves.
To care for the Lucky Shamrock Plant, don’t over water it, Warmund said. Also keep your eyes peeled for mites on the leaves. They won’t kill the plant, she says, but they will discolor the leaflets.
When the weather warms, the wood sorrels can be placed outdoors.
“If you move the Oxalis plants outdoors you need to put them in a shaded area because they don’t like very hot temperatures,” Warmund said. “In the fall when temperatures start dropping, bring them back inside.”