Shamrock can help save the planet – and other things you may not know about our national plant

Published by Brian Cunningham on

March 16th, 2016

With millions around the globe set to celebrate St.Patricks day this week, the shamrock prepares for its busiest time of year.  Deeply rooted in Irish mythology and legend, the three-leaved clover has become a national symbol of faith, hope, love and pride.  Yet despite being such a ubiquitous symbol on March 17th, there are many interesting facts and trivia about the shamrock which people don’t know about.

We at Green News have found six things about the shamrock which might surprise you:

1.  It is not the ‘official’ symbol of Ireland:  While it may be the image associated with our most famous national holiday amongst other things, the shamrock is not Ireland’s official symbol.  That status in fact goes to ‘the harp’, which appears on government documents, official proclamations, and every kind of certificate and reward.


2.  The wearing of the shamrock was once illegal:  During the 18th century, the British authorities viewed the shamrock as being synonymous with Irish nationalism and patriotism.  Fearing a potential rebellion, the British authorities banned the wearing of the shamrock.  Those who continued to wear it would be threatened with the death penalty.


3.  It was legal in 2010, but it was nowhere to be found!:  The shamrock can be usually found anywhere across the Irish landscape, but this was not the case in the year 2010.  Tirfoloin duin – which is considered the real shamrock – was in very short supply in 2010 due to a bitterly cold winter.  The national question centred around what would act as a substitute for the shamrock, with many people simply deciding to wear other three-leaved plants.


4.  Shamrocks help the environment:  The shamrock is a clover. Clover’s are one of the best nitrogen fixing plants available, meaning they can obtain nitrogen from the atmosphere.


5.  U.S. Presidents never actually keep the ‘gift’ of the shamrock:  It seems so benign, our taoiseach flying to the white house on the 17th March to hand over a shamrock to the president of America.  Some may be disappointed to hear, however, that the shamrock does not find itself a home in Obama’s garden.  The shamrock instead receives the same security precautions as any plant brought into the white house, meaning it is quickly taken away and plunged into a furnace.  This is due to security regulations, which state that any food, drink or plant presented to the President be ”handled pursuant to Secret Service policy”.


6.  That being said, shamrocks do indeed have a ‘home’ in the U.S.:  Four towns in the United States are named after shamrocks.  These are: Mount Gay-Shamrock,West Virginia; Shamrock,Texas; Shamrock Lakes, Indiana; and Shamrock, Oklahoma.


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Brian Cunningham

Brian works as Communications Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. He has a background in sociology and recently graduated from an MA in International Relations and Conflict Studies.