On this day we celebrate like we are all Irish, not only because of the great beer and food, but there’s always the feeling of Spring’s arrival in the air. The question you may be asking yourself is “How in the heck does this holiday have anything to do with lawns or lawn care”. Well, you have the luck of the Irish today, me laddie! (Leprechaun voice attempted there). Because here we will describe and connect the history of St. Patricks Day, Clover, & Common Wood Sorrel. It’s sure to become the type of useless knowledge that flows freely at the table after a few drinks.
“Never iron a four leaf clover because you don’t want to press your luck!”
According to History.com “St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17, the anniversary of his death in the fifth century’. The legacy of St. Patrick is often mixed between lure and religious history. One story dictates that he was responsible for bringing Christianity to the country. Other more fantastic stories of the saint describe him as banishing all the snakes from the country, thereby clearing it of all evil.
One interesting contradiction to this myth is that scientists now believe that there were never any snakes, or reptiles for that matter, in Ireland. Also Green wasn’t the original color used to honor the saint, up until the 19th century it was Blue!
Clover is a very common lawn “plant” that grows in almost all climates. The term “plant” is used because the debate over whether it is a weed can be more polarizing than contemporary politics. Whether you classify it as a weed or not, clover has a long history of being the “brand image” of the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.
It is thought that the saint used the 3 leaf clover to explain the holy trinity to his followers. The saga has morphed over 1,000 years into associating the discovery of the rare 4 leaf variant signifying purity and luck. But before you gloss over the rest of this article, here’s where things get a little interesting…
… Some historians claim there is evidence that St. Patrick not have used Clover during his demonstrations, but rather another common and identical weed know as Yellow Wood Sorrel. Wood Sorrel is found in just about all the same climates and abundance as clover. The leaves are similar, but much more “heart” shaped. It blooms with white flowers, whereas clover usually produces white flowers.
Even in modern times, it would be near impossible to distinguish the two with an untrained eye, especially in the setting that existed at that time. However, just imagine that for a 1,000 years, devout Irish Catholics around the world might have revered the wrong plant after all.