I learned to love working in the yard as a child, and helping my dad outside became much more preferable to staying inside cleaning baseboards or polishing the refrigerator.
One of my earliest memories of yard work was pulling clover. Growing up near the Gulf Coast, there always seemed to be bright green patches of clover growing right through our carpet grass.
As I worked pulling it out by the roots, I got pretty proficient at finding four-leaf clovers. When I found one, I’d run inside and press it between the pages of a book and carry it around, believing it would give me good luck.
St. Patrick’s Day is Monday, so I thought I would research the history of how the shamrock came to be the symbol of this holiday and Ireland, which happens to be the country of origin of my maiden name.
Shamrocks were sacred in the Druid religion.
St. Patrick is said to have picked shamrocks while preaching outside to illustrate the Holy Trinity.
The number 3 is very important to the Irish, representing the past, present and future; Irish storytelling repetitions; sky, earth and underground; and “three accomplishments well regarded in Ireland — a clever verse, music on the harp and the art of shaving faces,” according to As Dúchas Dóchas, an Irish company dedicated to the study and research of history and folklore. In the 1700s, wearing the shamrock was considered by Queen Victoria to be a sign of rebellion. Irish militia used it as a symbol during the 18th century defending their country from invaders.
There is controversy about which species of clover bears the true, original shamrock. The genus is Trifolium, meaning three-leafed. Two species are involved — repens, or white clover, which grows in America, and dubium, or lesser clover. Both are common in Europe.
I’ll end with a popular ballad from the 19th century, written by Thomas Moore:
“Oh, the Shamrock
Through Erin’s Isle,
To sport awhile,
As Love and Valor wander’d
With Wit, the sprite,
Whose quiver bright
A thousand arrows squander’d.
Where’er they pass,
A triple grass
Shoots up, with dew-drops streaming,
As softly green
As emeralds seen
Through purest crystal gleaming.
Oh the Shamrock, the green immortal Shamrock!
Of Bard and Chief,
Old Erin’s native Shamrock!”
Darla Horner Menking is a certified Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist.