Have you noticed shamrocks or clovers popping up in the spring? Not the cute little potted plants in the stores, although I love those too. But wild plants that are sprouting everywhere. You know, the larger leaf plants with delicate pink, white flowers or yellow flowers? I noticed them recently on my walks around our neighborhood, in Orange County, and in my Aunt’s succulent garden in San Diego County. I got really excited over a buttercup variety in my backyard. Why did this fascinate me? Shamrocks and St. Patrick’s Day are synonymous in March, and I never noticed the plant popping up specifically this month. I mentioned this to my younger, practically-minded sister, and she didn’t find it astonishing. But why do shamrocks sprout in March, the month of St. Patrick’s death? I think it’s a God thing!
Anyway, as writers do, I did some research. So much so that I didn’t get my written word count in this morning, or my editing done. The internet today is like the encyclopedia of my younger days. I loved sitting on the landing of the stairs in our home when I was young. A complete set of World Book Encyclopedias lay at my disposal. I’d start on one subject, slip into another, and before I knew it, I had volumes scattered across the carpet. Anyone venturing up the stairs beyond me had to tread lightly over all the books. I’ll admit, searching on the internet today is so much easier, but I miss those lazy days of perusing. Hitting tabs doesn’t feel quite the same as flipping pages.
So, I didn’t find the answer, but I found many interesting things about shamrocks, all of which you can google yourself. Some facts I knew, many I didn’t. Of course, as a Christian, what I loved most about the shamrock was the use of it as a tool to explain the trinity. And we know St. Patrick was credited with instituting this visual back in the 4th century. I loved the simplicity of the shamrock when teaching my children about God years ago when they were young.
Also, a bit of the fascination is that I’m part Irish. My great-grandmother’s parents on both sides immigrated from there. One day, I hope to research that side of my family as well as the Okinawan side. However, I have fond memories of my Okinawan mother making Corned Beef and cabbage every March 17th…I can smell ours cooking as I write.
Not the National Symbol of Ireland
But other things intrigued me about the lovely spot of green. Did you know it’s not the national symbol of Ireland? Take a look at Ireland’s Coat of Arms. No Shamrock. I knew it represented Ireland but I discovered that the Harp is the traditional symbol. I wrote a book called the Welsh Songbird (working title, not yet released, but coming in 2023), and I researched Welsh music and instruments. Some of it led to the Celts. The Welsh and the Irish have fascinating Celtic musical roots that reign pride in their culture, so it surprised me that the shamrock superseded harps in Irish symbolism. Still, we all love the clover.
It’s a Perineal Tuber
The shamrock is a perineal tuber plant, that goes dormant in the winter. Thus sprouting up in the spring, at least in around Southern California. I just love the large deep green carpet that spreads so lovely in random places. As I said earlier, I was so excited to find a patch in my backyard. Apparently, my grandchildren found it too.
I got to thinking, do I have to wait another year to enjoy these living emeralds? Can I transplant them? No, I don’t have to wait, and no, I can’t transplant them, but I can dig up the tubers and replant those for indoor blooming in a few weeks. I found this delightful video that tells how to do it. It’s short and simple—my kind of instruction. When I try it, maybe I’ll blog it in a gardening post.
Getting technical, the botanical name for shamrock or clover is oxalis. I mistakenly read this as oxtails and wondered if the shamrock was supposed to resemble an ox’s tail because to me it didn’t. But when I saw a picture of purple shamrocks displaying a squarish leaf, I had an “aha” moment. Imaginatively, I thought that’s why it’s called an oxtail. The square leaf looks like an ox’s behind. But I’ve never seen an ox’s behind, so I have no idea why I thought that. All in all, I like the green better.
After further investigation and more careful reading, I researched oxalis, which is defined as sorrel, sour wine, from oxis acid, and I found that it’s used medicinally, which explains why the plant is decoratively edible. It’s used in the treatment of influenza, fever, stomach disorders, urinary tract infections, traumatic injuries, sprains, and snake bites. Disclaimer here, don’t take my word for it. But I have a friend who is an expert forager on wild plants and all things natural. You could ask her.
Maybe she’s already covered shamrock or oxalis. Either way, she’s live on Tuesday on Facebook. Click on the link below and watch her beautiful, intelligent discussions of wild, edible plants.
That’s it for my Shamrock Shenanigans. I pray you’ll be reminded of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit whenever you see the shamrock. And I pray that the Lord will fill you with joy everlasting. I find blessings in some of God’s simplest things, and I’d love to hear what blesses you in the same. Just comment below, and let’s chat about Shamrocks or other little things.
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Thanks for reading, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Carol Nordman says
Fun blog Kathy!! I have shamrocks too- I didn’t know they are related to sorrel- which is great in soups.
Thanks, Carol. What does the sorrel taste like? Maybe Ill uproot my shamrocks and cook them!