Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Wearin O' the Green"

In the rainy early spring, my attention turns toward what plants are emerging after their winter rest. In moist, forested areas at low to middle elevations, native shamrocks begin poking their heads above ground in February. Thanks to Marian, under one shrub we have a nice thick carpet of these clover-like plants. Some years ago, after I noticed a good-sized patch of them edging her driveway and remarked how much I enjoyed them, she dug up and gave me a few. They have gradually spread and provide a spot of bright green along with beautiful white flowers. Common throughout western Washington and Oregon, they are a type of Oxalis known as Redwood Sorrel.

There is no single plant identified as shamrock, but rather it might be any of a number of clover-type plants that possess a compound leaf with three more-or-less heart-shaped leaflets. This includes White (or Dutch) clover, Red clover, Lesser yellow trefoil (or hop clover), Black Medic, and Wood Sorrels. Some say that the true plant can be grown only in Ireland or in Irish soil, but in fact the three-leaf clover grows all over the world – from Tasmania to South Africa and from North America to England.

Called "seamroy" by the Celts, the shamrock was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring; they revered its three leaves (trefoil) since they considered "3" to be a sacred number. The Druids believed many numbers held mystical powers and the tradition of honoring "3's" continued in Ireland for millennia.

Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a parable for the Holy Trinity when he preached to the Irish people. there is no historical evidence confirming this - the story was first recorded in 1726 in a book about the wild flowers of Ireland written by an English dissenting (protestant) cleric, Dr. Caleb Threlkeld.

In the late 18th century, volunteers in Ireland adopted the Shamrock as their symbol, although it didn't become a nationally accepted symbol until the 19th century. At that time, anything connected with Ireland displayed shamrocks, so the legend had taken on new meaning to Irish people and many wore it to show their dissatisfaction with England's Rule. Eventually, this "Wearin O' the Green" was seen as a symbol of rebellion and people were forbidden to wear it or have it on display. A reversal came in 1900 when Queen Victoria instructed that all Irish soldiers serving in British regiments should wear shamrock on St Patrick's Day in memory of those who died during the Boer War. This practice continues today, although the reason is not always remembered. A symbol of the Trinity and the Cross for most Irish-Catholics, it has gone beyond being a spiritual symbol and become a source of empowerment and national pride.

Although the Shamrock is not an official emblem in the Republic of Ireland, the green trefoil is registered under international trade-mark conventions as a symbol of Ireland and is universally recognized as a badge of the Irish; it is used on aircraft, ships, clothes, books, and all sorts of other decorations. It joins the English Rose and the Scottish Thistle on the United Kingdom's Royal Coat of Arms and is an integral part of Saint Patrick's Day celebrations.

Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime;
it is the LORD who makes the storm clouds.
He gives showers of rain to men,
and plants of the field to everyone.
Zechariah 10:1


  1. wow!! so much information!! i didn't know all that...all i ever do is look forward to the corned beef and cabbage...and wearing GREEN! ha!
    oh, and i love your little forest creature...leprechaun?? he prob does a good job watching over EVERYTHING !! :] laura

  2. We have not 1 bit of Irish blood in our veins, yet love the traditional once-a-year meal of corned beef, boiled potatoes, carrots & cabbage, and of course home-made Irish soda bread! The "forest creature" is of undetermined lineage, but I love him - seems to have just the right combination of naughty/nice and ugly/cute in his demeanor to suit me. He DOES watch over everything, but you know darn well when anything goes wrong around here, he's the one "what gets blamed"! Have a great week, Laura, thanks for stopping by!