Me and my young daughter have searched the garden for a four-leaf clover in the past but never found one. So do they actually exist or is this a myth?
Four-leaf clovers do exist, and scientists say the chance of finding one is about 1 in 10,000. In Ireland, the Emerald Isle, your chances of finding a four-leaf clover increase to 1 in 5,000. Four-leaf clovers exist because all four of the plant’s chromosomes have the same recessive gene.
Let’s dive down into the subject of four-leaf clovers in more detail, and discover how big clovers can actually get…
How Rare Is a Four-leaf Clover?
Scientists say that, worldwide, the chances of finding a four-leaf clover is about 1 in 10,000. In other words, if you examined 10,000 clovers, you might find one.
However, if you happen to be examining clovers on the Emerald Isle – Ireland – your chances go up to 1 in 5,000.
What the heck? Turns out, Ireland is a pretty green place. There are lots of clovers. Lots more than in, say, Egypt or Arizona. Iceland, too. And, turns out, where one four-leaf clover lives, others will be close by, thanks to genetics and environment.
By the way, searching through 10,000 clovers won’t really take that long. You can easily find 10,000 clovers in a three-by-four-foot area.
So go for it – maybe you too can have the luck of the Irish.
What Happens if You Find a Four-leaf Clover? (Is It Lucky?)
Four-leaf clovers really do exist, along with five-leaf, 6-leaf, and even 7-leaf clovers. The greater the number of leaves, the fewer of them you can find. But if you do find one, does that make you lucky?
We love science. Science has all the facts. But what about the question of luck? Faith? Hope? Or love? Some things do defy science.
Legend holds that the belief that four-leaf clovers brought luck began with Druids in Ireland, several thousand years ago.
In 5th century Ireland, St. Patrick used the shamrock’s three leaves to teach pagans about the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. When someone found a clover with four leaves, then the fourth leaf became a representation of God’s grace or good luck.
Pagan children in Ireland, however, believed that a four-leaf clover would help them see fairies.
Unlike seeing leprechauns, who were mischievous and drank heavily, seeing fairies could bring good luck and happiness. If the children spotted them, like in a garden – and they stayed on the faerie’s good side – the fairies would grant them three wishes.
More four-leaf clover fun facts: Never search for a four-leaf clover on your hands and knees. Instead, search from a higher perspective, like standing up. Also, some folks say that four-leaf clovers only grow where a mare has foaled, so check out those spots first.
Some historians say that Abraham Lincoln routinely carried a four-leaf clover, but accidentally left it at home the night he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
Apparently, even Elon Musk thinks four-leaf clovers are lucky. Check out the SpaceX Mission Patch Collection here.
Why Do Four-leaf Clovers Exist?
Four-leaf clovers exist because all four of its chromosomes have the same recessive gene.
Plants have surprisingly complicated genetics – much more complicated than humans. Humans have just two sets of genes, one from each parent. Many plants have four, which makes plant gene-tracing more complicated.
In a four-leaf clover study in 2010, scientists at the University of Georgia thought they had identified the gene that controlled how many leaves the clover had. Unfortunately (and some say mysteriously), they had a hard time replicating the experiment.
The clover’s gene for four leaves is recessive, like blue eyes in humans, long big toes, slender eyebrows, or hemophilia. That means that, for the clover, all four of the gene packages (chromosomes) must have the same recessive four-leaf gene.
Not only do genetics play a role, but environmental factors play in as well. Four-leaf clovers don’t do well in droughts. They prefer moist, clay-rich soils. If the clover has soil that is too acidic, or there isn’t enough sunshine, or the temperatures are too harsh, it won’t develop that fourth leaf.
Here’s Wired on the Mysterious Genetics of the Four-Leaf Clover.
Is There a 5 Leaf Clover?
Known as a rose clover or green gold, the five-leaf clovers can be found one in about 1 million. Some say the fifth leaf means you’ll be lucky with money.
The number five represents different things in different cultures. In numerology, the number five represents freedom, change, and curiosity.
Coco Chanel famously chose the fifth perfume sample (Chanel No. 5), because of her strong belief in the power of the number 5. She always scheduled her fashion shows on May 5.
Here’s Luke Combs, with a song about five-leaf clovers…
How Rare Is a 6 Leaf Clover?
People say the odds are one in 16 million.
If you have decided to search for a four, five, six, seven or 56 leaf clover, here are some tips. First, Google or scan Yelp for clover patches in your town. If there are no online hints, check out shady, wet areas. Clovers love poorly drained soil.
When you’ve found a clover patch, don’t get on your hands and knees. Instead, stand over it and look for patterns. Shamrocks have three identical leaves. Clovers with additional leaves do not. Additional leaves are smaller, sometimes much smaller.
The human eye and brain are superb pattern seekers. Ruffle the tops of the clovers gently with your shoe or your palm. If you think your eye spots a difference in pattern, kneel down and use your hands to gently push the other clovers away so you can take a really close look.
How Rare Is a 7 Leaf Clover?
You might find a seven-leaf clover after looking at around 250 million clovers.
Let’s say you find one. What can you do with a 7 leaf clover? Chances are, it will only be precious to you.
First, try pressing it between the pages of a thick book. Clovers do have some moisture in them, so protect the pages of your heavy book with a couple of pieces of blank paper. Set several books (or rocks) on top of your heavy book. Then, leave it for a week or more.
After your clover is pressed, it’s ready for display. Use one of the following methods within a couple of days so the clover stays green.
Ultra-clear mailing tape works well. Cut off two square pieces. Then, put one square down, sticky side up, on a flat surface. Use your fingers or chopsticks to position your clover on the square of tape. Then, carefully press the second piece over your clover.
You can use a ruler or a credit card to iron out the wrinkles. Trim away excess tape. This is a good method to keep your good luck piece in your wallet or purse.
Or, you can consider gluing your clover to a piece of paper and framing it. After all, a 7 leaf clover is a real treasure.
What Do All the Leaves on a Clover Mean?
The first leaf is associated with faith and the second with love. Leaf number three generally means love. Shamrocks, associated with Saint Paddy’s Day, are not the same as four-leaf clovers.
Shamrocks only have three leaves. Legend has it that, back in the 5th century, St. Patrick used a shamrock to teach pagans about the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The fourth leaf on a clover is the lucky one. Leaf number five is said to represent financial good fortune. The sixth leaf assures a long life and the seventh represents fame.
Final Words: How Big Is the Biggest Clover Ever Found?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s largest clover had 56 leaves!
The find is credited to Shigeo Obara, a farmer from Hanamaki City, Japan in 2009. Mr. Obara studied clovers for over 60 years, using natural cross-breeding techniques to produce the record-winning clover.
When I tell my young daughter about this huge clover I know she’ll want to go and look for an even bigger one.
Good luck finding your own four-leaf clover too! 🙂