A shamrock is a symbol of Irish heritage. In fact, it is a registered trademark as a symbol of Ireland. The shamrock is often incorporated in Irish designs and St. Patrick’s Day decorations. The Irish legend of the shamrock is that Saint Patrick used the three leaves of a shamrock to illustrate the fundamental Christian belief of the Holy Trinity. There is still debate whether this lesson of the clover is fact or myth. What is a shamrock?
The word “shamrock” comes from the Irish word “seamrog.” The identitiy of the actual plant that was used by Saint Patrick cannot be determined, but it is recognized to be a type of clover. There are many different types of clover. The clover is a three-leaf plant in the pea family.
Even some plants that look like clover are used to signify the shamrock. People may use different clovers in Irish symbols and St. Patrick’s Day decorations and not give it a second thought, but the Irish tend to identify one of four plants as the clover that was used by Saint Patrick.
Though the specific clover is unknown, the shamrock used by the Irish is one of four plants. The four plants that are called shamrocks are the Lesser trefoil, or hop clover (Trifolium dubium), white clover (Trifolium repens), black medick (Medicago lupulina), and the red clover (Trifolium pratense). The black medick is not a type of clover, but it looks like clover. The white clover is commonly considered to be the most popular clover type used by the Irish people.
Many people around the world who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day are not concerned if their decorations feature the official shamrock or another type of clover-looking plant. Some plants in the wood sorrel family, though not clover, is sometimes grown as a St. Patrick’s Day decoration since it resembles the clover and is much easier to grow as a houseplant than clover.
A similar association with clover is the belief that four-leaf clovers are good luck. People often associate this as an Irish fable. The roots of the shamrock symbol and four-leaf clover are distinctly different. The shamrock is a symbol of Ireland and the Christian Trinity. The belief that four-leaf clovers are lucky can be traced back to pagan symbols of the Druids. The Druids believed clover protected them from evil spirits. In the past, clover was used for medicinal purposes.