What Causes Four Leaf Clovers And How To Find A Four Leaf Clover (2024)

Ah, the four leaf clover… so much to be said about this misfit of nature. Some people look all their lives for that lucky four leaf clover without success, while others (like me and my kids) could find them all day long. But exactly what causes four leaf clovers, why are they considered so lucky, and how do you successfully go about finding four leaf clovers? Read on to find out.

About Four Leaf Clovers

Before you begin your search for that seemingly ‘mystical' clover specimen, it helps to have a little background info about four leaf clovers. We all know that it is thought to bring good luck to the finder (Yeah right. I find them all the time and if it weren't for my bad luck, I'd have no luck at all!), but did you know that St. Patrick is said to have used the three-leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, and the fourth leaf is believed to represent God's grace. Additional information points to the four leaves of clover as representing faith, hope, love, and luck. And in the Middle Ages, a clover with four leaves not only meant good luck but was believed to grant one the ability to see fairies (just so you know, I have yet to see one). The elusive four leaf clover occurs in white clover (Trifolium repens). You know the one. That common weed popping up in yards everywhere and is difficult to control once it's taken hold. A white clover leaf should, generally, only have three leaflets - which is why the species name is trifolium; ‘tri' means three. However, many times (more often than you would think) you will come across a clover with four leaves, five leaves (cinquefoil) or even more - my kids have a knack for finding clovers having six or even seven leaves. So why does this happen and how rare is it?

What Causes Four Leaf Clovers?

When you're looking for answers to what causes four leaf clovers, the scientific response is normally, “We aren't quite sure why it happens.” There are, however, a number of theories.

  • Four leaf clovers are believed to be mutations of the white clover. They are also said to be quite uncommon, with only about 1 in 10,000 plants producing a clover with four leaves. (I would argue with that since we seem to find them regularly.)
  • The number of leaflets on clovers is genetically determined. Tests have shown that phenotypic traits within the DNA of the cells of the plant may explain this phenomenon. In fact, the genes that produce four leaves are recessive to the genes that produce three. Generally speaking, the number of three leaf clovers for every four leaf clover is about 100 to 1. With odds like that, it is considered lucky to find one - not so much that it brings you luck.
  • Another reason for clovers with four leaves instead of three is due to plant breeding. New strains of the plant are biologically bred to produce more four leaf clovers. I guess that could explain why there seem to be lots more, or at least a lot easier to find.
  • Finally, certain factors within the plant's natural environment can play a role in the number of four leaf clovers. Things like heredity combined with exposure to certain chemicals or low levels of radiation may possibly increase the rate of mutation and frequency of occurrence for future clover generations.

How to Find a Four Leaf Clover

So if it's been said that about one out of every 10,000 clovers will have four leaves and nearly 200 clovers are found in a 24-inch (61 cm.) square plot, what does this mean exactly? And what are your chances of finding four leaf clovers? Simply put, in an area roughly 13 square feet (1.2 sq. m.), you should find at least one four-leaf clover. Like I keep saying, it's not as difficult as one might think to find a four leaf clover. My secret to success, and apparently others too as I found in my research, is not to look for them at all. If you get down on those hands and knees looking through each individual clover, not only will you end up with back or knee pain but you'll surely go cross-eyed. Just casually walk around that clover bed instead, perusing the area, and eventually, those four leaf clovers (or five and six leaf ones) will actually begin to ‘stick out' amongst the more common three leaf clovers. Feeling lucky yet? Give it a try.

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What Causes Four Leaf Clovers And How To Find A Four Leaf Clover (2024)

FAQs

What Causes Four Leaf Clovers And How To Find A Four Leaf Clover? ›

4-leaf clovers are a mutation of the usually 3-leafed White Clover plant, Trifolium repens. One clover is actually one leaf of a larger plant, with 3 leaflets. Mutations can occur due to a low frequency recessive gene or environmental causes. Often the reason for mutation is differentiable from one clover to another.

Is there a trick to finding 4 leaf clovers? ›

In a dense patch of white clover, a four-leafer lurks in an area of less than fifteen square feet (on average). Find a thick patch and slowly brush your hand over the surface. The center of a four-leaf clover has a different shape and the fourth leaf is often smaller than the others.

Where can I find a four-leaf clover? ›

First, you need to find the perfect place. You can find around 200 clovers in a plot of clover-growing grass or field that spreads about one-square foot, which means that a space of about 12-square feet should contain a four-leaf clover.

What are the chances of finding a four-leaf clover in your backyard? ›

The Area Necessary to Find a Four-Leaf Clover

The probability of finding a four-leaf clover is 1-in-10,000. This defines the number of times that the event occurs (four-leaf clover) out of a total number of opportunities (all white clovers).

How do four-leaf clovers happen? ›

Whereas human chromosomes come in matched pairs, clovers have four copies of each chromosome per cell. The gene responsible for four-leaf clovers is 'recessive', which means that the plant will only produce four leaves if it has the four-leaf gene on all four chromosomes, which is a rare occurrence.

Where am I most likely to find a four-leaf clover? ›

Walk around areas with a lot of leaves and trees, like parks and trials, to seek out clover patches. If you have a backyard, look there as well. Clovers often grow in lawns.

How rare is it to find a four-leaf clover? ›

According to The Weather Network, a four-leaf clover is rare, and difficult to find. A quick Google search said the odds are 1 in 10,000, but a 2017 study says chances are much better, with a 1 in 5,000 chance. Inside Science also reported 1 in 10,000 odds.

What happens if you find a four-leaf clover? ›

Four-leaf clovers, aside from being considered good luck, are said to be symbols of faith, love, hope and good fortune. Unlike shamrocks, which have three leaves, four-leaf clovers aren't considered religious symbols, especially not in Ireland.

What can be mistaken for a 4 leaf clover? ›

Other plants may be mistaken for, or misleadingly sold as, "4-leaf clovers"; for example, Oxalis tetraphylla is a species of wood sorrel with leaves resembling a 4-leaf clover.

Which is rarer 4 or 5 leaf clover? ›

It's estimated that you have a 1 in 100,000 chance of finding a five-leaf clover, compared to a 1 in 10,000 chance of finding a four-leaf clover.

Is it bad to pick a four-leaf clover? ›

Finding a four-leaf clover is considered good luck because they are so rare. Only one in 10,000 clovers have four leaves, rather than three.

What does it mean if you have a lot of clover in your yard? ›

Lack of nitrogen in the soil: Clover thrives in nitrogen-poor dirt. Over-fertilization in one area: In this case, clover may thrive in one area while grass grows in another.

Why does my yard have so many 4 leaf clovers? ›

Another reason for clovers with four leaves instead of three is due to plant breeding. New strains of the plant are biologically bred to produce more four leaf clovers. I guess that could explain why there seem to be lots more, or at least a lot easier to find.

Why is it so rare to find a four-leaf clover? ›

Trifolium is a Latin word that means "three leaf." That explains why 99.99% of clovers you find only have three leaves. Clovers with four (or more) leaves are the result of mutations or recessive genes in the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of clover plants.

What is the superstition about the four-leaf clover? ›

According to the legend, the leaves of a four-leaf clover represent hope, faith, love, and a fourth for good luck. A common belief during the Middle Ages was if someone carried a four-leaf clover, they would have the ability to see fairies.

What does it mean when you find a patch of four-leaf clovers? ›

Four-leaf clovers have long been a symbol of good luck and fortune in various cultures around the world.

How do you find the four-leaf lucky clover? ›

But four-leaf clovers exist, all right, and this is how you can find one: Look for a patch of clovers. 1 in 5,000-10,000 clovers is a four-leafed clover, so your chances are better if you're looking at a whole bunch of them. Make sure they're actually clovers.

Why can't I find a four-leaf clover? ›

Trifolium is a Latin word that means "three leaf." That explains why 99.99% of clovers you find only have three leaves. Clovers with four (or more) leaves are the result of mutations or recessive genes in the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of clover plants.

What is the chance of seeing a 4 leaf clover? ›

A quick Google search says the odds of finding a four-leaf clover on your first try is about 1 in 10,000 - but a 2017 analysis of 5.7 million clovers over six countries suggests your chances are closer to 1 in 5,000 - and while that's much better, it looks like four-leaf clovers are a rare find no matter how you slice ...

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