The true shamrock (trifolium repens) or white clover dates back as far as Eve in the Garden of Eden. It symbolizes “good luck” to most of us but even more to the Irish. We all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by what is known as the “wearin‚ o’ the green.” Most clovers have only three leaves but one with four leaves is considered very good luck. Each leaf has its own symbol, i.e. faith, hope, love and luck. Another interpretation could be Father, Son, Holy Spirit and God’s Grace.
It is interesting to note that when most people purchase a shamrock, it is not really the shamrock that they want. Oxalis plants, known as wood sorrel, are much taller and have larger leaves than the common, true shamrock, and they are known for their flowers, usually white. Also, the Oxalis plant comes in a red leaf variety that is very popular but much harder to find. There are over 800 varieties of Oxalis and most of them are from South Africa or South America. Many varieties are considered perennial even in the United States and can spread and become a nuisance plant, much like a weed.
Oxalis likes warm temperatures and not so very bright, but will grow anywhere. If they are frozen, they will die down but snap back when the weather is good. The leaves tend to turn inward and appear to droop at night but lift back up during the day. True shamrocks are the “real-deal” but Oxalis is what you will probably find for sale.