Tag Archive for: St. Patrick

The Difference Between a Shamrock and a Four-Leaf Clover

by Paula Gail Benson

On March 1, Terrie Farley Moran, author of the Read Em and Eat mystery series and current author of the Jessica Fletcher novels including Murder She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle, posted the following on Facebook: “Welcome to March, the month of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Please remember that the SHAMROCK has THREE leaves and decorate accordingly. This is my annual public service announcement.”


I’ve thought a lot about Terrie’s PSA, particularly since noticing several companies offering jewelry that had four-leaf clovers instead of shamrocks.

For instance, Talbots features a pin with a lady-bug perched on a four-leaf clover:

Talbots Jewelry


Betsy Johnson has a necklace that has a four-leaf clover and horseshoe:


Betsey Johnson Jewelry

The shamrock, as Terrie mentioned, is associated with St. Patrick, who is said to have used it to demonstrate the concept of the Holy Trinity, three persons in one God, when teaching the Irish about Christianity.

According to his biography in Britannica, Patrick was born in Britain, captured, and sold into slavery. The six years he worked as a herdsman in Ireland made him turn strongly to his religion. In a dream, he saw a means of escape, but encountered more servitude before being reunited with his family. After his return to Britain, he received a letter asking that he come back to Ireland. Although concerned about his abilities and safety, he did go and is now recognized as Ireland’s patron saint and national apostle.

In her article, “Four Leaf Clover Symbolism and Good Luck Meaning,” Dani Rhys provides a quote from John Melton, written in 1620, as the first mention of how people viewed four-leaf clovers: “If a man walking in the fields find any four-leaved grass, he shall in a small while after find some good thing.”

Rhys also notes that the four-leaf clover is likely connected to the “luck of the Irish” because it grows more often there than in other countries. “Abundance in this case means there is about 1 four-leaf clover in every 5,000 regular three-leaf clovers in the European Island, whereas there is only 1 four-leaf clover in every 10,000 three-leaf ones outside Ireland.”

I’ve been fortunate to have kept a shamrock plant alive in my office for several years. It looks a bit straggly but continues to thrive.

Also, my uncle had an amazing capacity to find four-leaf clovers in a field of green grasses. When he passed away, his wallet contained a collection of many pressed four-leaf clovers.

Whether you seek luck or symbolism, may you have the clover that suits you best! Happy day after St. Patrick’s Day!