Tulsa Garden Club explains the history of shamrocks and lucky clovers

TULSA, Okla. — The shamrock and the four-leaf clover are two plants synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day.

Tulsa Garden Club education director, Sue Lovelace, shared with FOX23 the history of how these plants became symbols of Irish culture.

“Actually four-leaf clovers are a genetic mutation. They really are only supposed to have three, but occasionally Mother Nature goofs up and there are four,” aid Lovelace.

She said it’s so rare to find a clover with for leaves, you’d have to search about 10 thousand clovers before you’d find one.

Good luck finding them in March too, because clovers typically don’t sprout for another month.

“It depends very much on the weather,” said Lovelace. “We need some nice, warm, sunny days for clover to sprout and to flower. Usually about a month from now you’ll be seeing little clover coming up in your flower beds or your lawn where you don’t want it.”

But why are clovers considered lucky? The Tulsa Garden Club is aimed at educating club members and the public about horticulture and all things gardening, so Lovelace knows her plant history.

She said the lucky clovers can be traced back to the Druids, who were high-ranking members in Celtic history.

“The Druids thought that four was a magic number and that it had to do with earth, fire, wind and [water],” said Lovelace. “So they used the number four and those elements to fight against evil spirits.”

But clovers aren’t the only plant that have meaning. Lovelace said most all flowering plants have some kind of meaning tied to them, made up by the Victorians of the last century.

“Roses were for love. Red was a symbol of passion or true love. Many plants have symbolic meanings that have to do with emotions that we feel, the same way with colors,” said Lovelace. “Even the shamrock plant that we are celebrating today on St Patrick’s Day, it has some meaning too.”

The shamrock is not in the same family as the clover, even though the look similar.

The shamrock has three leaves and blooms with little white, and occasionally pink, flowers.

Lovelace said the Irish used those three leaves to teach people about the Trinity in the Catholic Church in the fifth century.

“The king asked St. Patrick to explain the Trinity to people, and St. Patrick picked up a shamrock leaf, and he used that as a visual aid ... to teach the people Christianity,” said Lovelace. “So this was so deeply engrained in Irish culture.”

The Tulsa Garden Club is offering two educational events for the public coming up.

The first one is its annual flower show on Saturday March 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Tulsa Garden Center next to Woodward Park. You’ll be able to see all types of plants and artistic designs on display. It’s open to the public and free.

On May 14 the club will host its annual garden tour. Five professionally landscaped homes and their gardens will be open to the public. Two homes will offer interior tours.

Tickets available at the Tulsa Garden Center and online.