Common clovers are trifoliate, meaning they have three leaves. On occasion, common clovers are found to carry four leaves, which are considered lucky. A clover can also have five or six leaves, but these are rare. The record clover was found in 2009 and it carried 56 leaves. There are other three-leafed plants that are sometimes called clover.
The clover is used as a symbol of Ireland. A shamrock is a young sprig of clover. The three-leafed clover is associated with St. Patrick and his journey to bring Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century. Legends claim that Saint Patrick used the natural triad of the clover to represent the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). Clover grew in abundance in Ireland’s countryside’s, and was used to feed the livestock. The three leaves are also symbolic of the theological virtues of Faith, Love, and Hope. According to legend, Eve carried a four-leaf clover from the Garden of Eden to remind her of the happiness she enjoyed there.
The four-leaf clover is considered a good luck symbol because of its rarity. Ancient Druids used the clover as a protective herb, and they considered it symbolic with the verities of Earth, Sea, and Sky. To the ancients, the four-leafed clover was seen as a charm against snakes, witches, and the devil. It was believed to give the carrier of the clover second sight, which permitted them to see fairies. In the 17th century, four-leafed clovers were put in the bride’s path to protect her from evils on her special day. The four-leafed clover came to symbolize faith, hope, love, and luck, although many believed the luck only came if the clover was found accidentally. Some claimed the luck could be had by placing the clover in your shoe, while others choose to preserve the hard to find clovers between the pages of the family Bible.
Clovers were also used as a diuretic and brewed for tea. Clovers are edible and can be added to salads. They are a good source of protein. Clovers are native to Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa; they were introduced to America by early settlers.
A special thank you to http://www.whats-your-sign.com/symbolic-shamrock-meaning.html and http://www.livingartsoriginals.com/meaning-shamrock.html Richard Webster The Encyclopedia of Superstitions.