My Odd Talent: Finding 4-leafed clovers

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Here’s my first 4-leafed clover of the year. It’s gnarled and misshapened but there it is. I’ve given up picking them and just photograph them now, for you see, I have this odd talent of finding them. One time I even found two on demand when my grandsons wanted some.

Perhaps it started when I was a baby. I have some four-leafed clovers taped into my baby book, a gift from my Aunt Lois. Maybe it goes along with my being an analytical chemist. We do find needles in haystacks.

Clovers are a variation of  the Shamrock, which represents the Trinity of St. Patrick. Add another leaf to the Trinity and you have a Celtic symbol of luck and safety; the four-leaf clover was held in high regard by the Druids. They saw it as a charm that could bring luck and help the finder spot danger. According to Celtic legend, one leaf is for faith, one for hope, one for love, and one for luck.

Am I lucky? Like everyone else, I am lucky in some things and quite unlucky in others. I don’t gamble and my risks are calculated. Risky chemists don’t last long. I don’t think my gift of clover has given me anything more than an interest. Perhaps I’m good at spotting danger but once again, I contribute that to being a chemist. I do enjoy my “gift” though and of course, since I am white and Dutch, this 4-leafed white Dutch clover could be a personal symbol. I even have some Celtic blood.

It is estimated that in nature about 0.01% of all white clovers are four leaf clovers. The remaining 9,999 are the traditional three-leaf variety. Many people have noticed that lucky clovers can be found in the same place. There is a debate about if the mutation that gives the extra leaf is genetic or induced by the environment. Many scientists hold the idea that four-leaf clovers are a rare recessive mutation.

Some people have found thousands of four-leaf clovers in their lifetime and others have never seen one.  But even the traditional three-leaf clover can bring luck to homeowners wishing to cut down on lawn care and its expense. Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) can add many nice qualities, a touch of sweet aroma and flare to a grass lawn. The fragrant flowers can range from white to pink and are most profuse in the spring. The leaves are lost each winter, meaning that if you find a four-leaf clover, you might as well pick it. That clover won’t be there next year. Clover lives through the winter in the form of shallow roots that do not like a dry winter. At least that’s one reason to cheer for snow.

Clover doesn’t need fertilizer because it can fix nitrogen. This means it can take nitrogen gas from the air and make it into fertilizer for no cost at all. Clover plants have long roots and a lawn that includes clover does not need aeration. Clover is pest free and competes well with weeds, making herbicides obsolete. It even repels chinch bugs! Clover attracts bees and beneficial insects and is a perfect companion for a back yard garden because clover near apple trees, squash, cucumbers and melons will help with pollination. It does not need mowing as often as grass.   It grows to 4-8 inches tall and then stops growing. Clover likes plenty of sun and will grow rapidly with a dose of phosphorus now and then. If you don’t want bees, mowing more often will keep bees away.

Once established, a clover lawn will tolerate drought.   This means that it will stay green even in dry weather. Clover does not show dog urine spots. However it is not considered tough enough for play areas. On the other hand, children can spend countless hours in a clover lawn as they search for four leaf clovers and make clover flower crowns and necklaces on lazy summer days.

Not every lawn has clover these days. Until the 1950s, clover was included in lawn seed mixes as it was regarded as a prestigious lawn plant that was soft to walk on and easy to care for. It became a weed when it was considered “just out of place texture wise”, not green enough, a source of stinging bees and slippery when wet. But don’t let these views scare you. Many people still view them fondly and with nostalgia.

If you like mixed textures in your lawn or if you are tired of mowing your grass and looking to cut back on work, clover would be a wonderful addition to your grass lawn. Seeds sprout best when raked into a bare spot. Water until the clover sprouts but after that it should be problem free. White Dutch clover is well adapted to our region. The best time to plant is April and May. (Perhaps Tulip Time would be an appropriate time to toss about some seeds of Dutch White Clover.) I have them and yes, there are bees but if you are looking out for 4-leafed clovers, you can look of for bees as well.

There are clover species native to Iowa that can be planted to provide animal habitat and enhance the educational value of your land.   These include the White Prairie Clover, Purple Prairie Clover, Silky Prairie Clover, and Round-headed Bush clover. Some of these get 3-4 feet tall so you might not find them suitable for a lawn but they can be planted as ground covers.

Believe it or not, some cosmologists think that the universe has the shape of a 4-leaf clover. Clovers bring luck, diversity and Oneness with the Universe.

 

Here’s my favorite photo, for if you look closely, you’ll find two clovers next to the ball.

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