7 Four-Leaf Clover Facts to Know for St. Patrick's Day

Why is the four-leaf clover a universal symbol of good luck? Learn more about this green plant associated with St. Patrick's Day.

Today, looking for four-leaf clovers is a St. Patrick's Day tradition, but have you ever wondered why they're considered lucky—or how they came to be associated with the holiday? It turns out, the story behind the clover dates back hundreds of years before we began drinking green beer and pinching friends who didn't wear green on the holiday.

The four-leaf clover (officially known as Oxalis deppei) is a small plant with four distinct leaves. It's a rare variation of the common three-leaf clover, and because your chances of finding one with four leaves is about 1 in 10,000, they're considered lucky.

Four-leaf clovers have been around for ages, and their supposed lucky powers are talked about in centuries-old legends. In the early days of Ireland, Celtic priests known as Druids carried three-leaf clovers, or shamrocks, in the belief that with their help, they could see evil spirits approaching and be able to escape. Four-leaf clovers, then, were Celtic charms, offering magical protection and warding off bad luck. Children in the Middle Ages believed they might be able to see fairies if they carried a four-leaf clover.

four leaf clovers on colorful background

Margot Cavin

The Difference Between Four-Leaf Clovers and Shamrocks

Both shamrocks and four-leaf clovers are associated with St. Patrick's Day, and they're commonly confused as the same thing. A shamrock is a clover with three leaves, but the four-leaf clover is considered lucky due to its rarity. Shamrocks are still an important part of the holiday, and there's a deep religious significance that explains why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day with shamrocks.

Now that you know the difference, catch up on these fun facts about four-leaf clovers before you start making a St. Patrick's Day dessert.

Closeup of a 4 leaf clover

Robin Smith / Getty Images

Fast Facts About Four-Leaf Clovers

  • There are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every "lucky" four-leaf clover.
  • There are no clover plants that naturally produce four leaves, which is why four-leaf clovers are so rare.
  • The leaves of four-leaf clovers are said to stand for faith, hope, love, and luck.
  • It's often said that Ireland is home to more four-leaf clovers than any other place, giving meaning to the phrase "the luck of the Irish."
  • If you're lucky enough to find a four-leaf clover, look for more! If a clover plant produces a four-leaf clover, it's more likely to produce another one than plants that only produce shamrocks.
  • The fourth leaf can be smaller, or a different shade of green, than the other three.
  • If you're the superstitious type, give your four-leaf clover to someone else. It's said that this will double your good luck.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are four-leaf clovers and shamrocks the same thing?

    Shamrocks and four-leaf clovers are not the same thing. Shamrocks are the traditional clover plant that has three leaves. A four-leaf clover is much rarer.

  • Why are four-leaf clovers considered lucky?

    Finding a four-leaf clover is considered good luck because they are so rare. Only one in 10,000 clovers have four leaves, rather than three.

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