Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Irish Shamrock and Saint Patrick by Carol King

The Irish shamrock is the most recognized symbol of St. Patrick’s Day. The word (Irish: seamrog) means a young sprig in Irish. Saint Patrick is said to have used it as a symbol for the Christian Holy Trinity to help convert the Irish people from Druidism to Christianity in the 5th century. The Druids were said to hold the shamrock in special regard because its leaves formed a triad, and three is a mystical number in Celtic religion. 

In Ireland, all shamrocks are considered lucky and are worn and given as gifts on St. Patrick's Day. There is some disagreement among the Irish as to which exact plant is the shamrock. Two detailed investigations to settle the matter were carried out in two separate botanical surveys in Ireland, one in 1893 and the other in 1988. The results show that there is no one "true" species of shamrock, but that Trifolium dubium (Lesser clover) is considered to be the shamrock by roughly half of Irish people, and Trifolium repens (White clover) by another third, with the remaining fifth is split between various other species of Trifolium and Oxalis.

White clover (Trifolium repens), the common lawn weed, is found in Colorado.  This Irish shamrock is growing in our lawns, in prairies, pastures and foothills all around us!

Ever wonder where the expression “the wear’o the green” came from? In the 19th century, wearing a shamrock became a symbol of the Catholic underground after a government-led religious prosecution began against Catholics. One could get hung for “wear’o the green”.

Today the plants we associate with St Patrick’s Day and are usually sold as “shamrocks” are actually wood sorrel or Oxalis. The Oxalis is very easy to grow. Here are some growing tips from PlantTalk Colorado:

Shamrock plants require direct sunlight for best growth and flowering. They will bloom all winter if placed in a bright sunny window. Shamrocks prefer moist soil, fertilization during active growth, and temperatures between 50-65 degrees F at night and no greater than 75 degrees F during the day. These plants do not have an extensive root system, so they grow best if crowded in a pot. Check here for further growing tips:"

                                                              And a wish for a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day: 
May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks,
May your heart be as light as a song,
May each day bring you bright, happy hours,

That stay with you all the year long.