We associate shamrocks with the “luck o’ the Irish” and St. Patrick’s Day, but four-leaf clovers are generally considered a good luck charm. What’s so lucky about that extra clover leaf?
True four-leaf clovers come from the white clover plant. A genetic mutation produces the extra leaf, and sometimes these mutated clovers will have five or more leaves. When grown in the wild, you’ll often find more than one four-leaf clover in the same patch because the mutation affects the whole family.
As far as symbolism, the shamrock represents the Holy Trinity. St. Patrick apparently used it to teach the Druids about the Christian concepts of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and if a four-leaf shamrock is found, the fourth leaf stands for God’s Grace. On a four-leaf clover three leaves represent faith, hope and love, and the extra leaf stands for luck.
The history of four-leaf clovers as lucky charms is steeped in legend. Some claim that Eve carried a four-leaf clover with her when leaving the Garden of Eden. The Druids used four-leaf white clovers to ward off evil spirits, and that use is what still associates them as a symbol of good luck.
Finding a four-leaf clover is rare. So rare that you really are lucky is you do find one. Since they’re hard to come by, buying luck is also an option. Some people in the business of selling “genuine” four-leaf clovers actually sell oxalis, Pepperwort or water clover—all clover varieties that naturally produce four leaves. The best way to tell if a four-leaf clover is genuine is to check if one leaf (the mutant leaf) is smaller than the rest.