A St. Patty’s Day Secret

Today, in honour of March 17th, I’m going to share a little secret with you.

The adorable little plant that you’ve been sporting today on silly bouncy headbands, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirts, and light-up necklaces with attached shot-glasses, is actually called Wood Sorrel. (Well, it actually depends how it is drawn. If the leaves are heart-shaped, it is Wood Sorrel, If not, then Clover.)

And, to make this more confusing, 4-leaf clovers are not actually considered shamrocks at all. An Irish shamrock, by definition, has to have 3 leaves! (It has something to do with the Christian trinity that I don’t really know much about, but that’s where the “3” comes in.)


That (above) is Wood Sorrel! (genus Oxalis )

Yup, the typical shamrock you see on most St. Patty’s day paraphernalia, with heart-shaped leaves, is generally called Wood Sorrel.

On the other hand, here’s clover of the genus Trifolium. This is a 4-leaf clover that my son found. As you can see, it does not have heart shaped leaves.  4-leaf clovers have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day!


Here is a picture which contains both. See the difference? Left side Clover (Trifolium), Right side Wood Sorrel (Oxalis)!


Thanks to our friends at the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station, we learned about this little woodland treat on our trip last fall. It’s quite tasty! It has a hint of tart green apple. Don’t eat too much of it though. The oxalic acid that gives it that tangy flavour can cause a little problem with calcium absorption when consumed in very large quantities. Apparently it makes a great salad garnish though.

Rest assured, there are no poisonous lookalikes. People (like me apparently) often mistake it for clover, but clover is not poisonous.

So, while 3-leaf clovers (Trifolium), and 3-leaf Sorrels (Oxalis) can both be called Shamrocks, a 4-leaf clover has nothing to do with St. Patty’s Day!


(This is all wrong)

Happy March 17th! Now you can go out to the bar and impress/irritate everyone wearing shamrocks with this new piece of trivia.







Posted on March 17, 2017, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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