Where to find a four-leaf clover

Three-leaf clovers are commonplace. The four-leaf clover is an uncommon variation of the common, three-leaved clover. According to tradition, such leaves bring good luck to their finders, especially if found accidentally. According to legend, each leaf represents something: the first is for hope, the second is for faith, the third is for love, and the fourth is for luck. Actively seeking out a four-leaf clover will not bring you good luck. In fact, there is no such thing as luck, so even if you accidentally find one it’s not going to change your life.

A four-leaf cloverAn anonymous visitor to the site emailed me: “I found a 5 leaf clover… do you know anything about it? Is it good luck or bad luck?”

It’s just a mutation, like the four-leaf clover, of course. The four-leaf mutation is quite rare occurring once in about 10,000 specimens. Five is rarer still. But, according to this site: Five-leaf Clovers bring extra good luck and attracts money.

Nice, I wonder why the banks don’t breed these things and hand them out to their managers.

Of course, there is no such thing as “luck” and no number of leaves on a member of the more than 300-strong species of plants in the pea family Fabaceae is going to change that. Clover (Trifolium), or trefoil, usually means three-leafed, hence the surprise when one finds a specimen with four, five or more leaflets. The world record clover is an uber clover with 21 leaflets, although the Guinness record site says 18. Wikipedia, in traditional character has both figures on two different pages. Intriguingly, both the 18 and 21 leaflet specimens were found/grown by Shigeo Obara, a farmer in Japan’s Iwate prefecture.

Clover is found across the globe, most species are found in the temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but many also occur in South America and Africa, particularly at high altitudes in the tropics. Clovers are small annual, biennial, and short-lived perennial herbaceous plants. To “be in clover” means to be living a carefree life of ease, comfort, and prosperity. But, if you’re due for a drug test make sure you haven’t been drinking milk from cows fed on clover. Clover has a small amount of morphine, which can end up in bottled milk. Eating clover itself can trigger blood and urine drug tests. It’s one more excuse for unlucky athletes caught abusing the system.

So, what is the origin of the notion that four-leafed clovers are lucky? According to legend, each leaf, or rather leaflet, represents something: hope, faith, love, and the fourth luck. It presumably has some association with the Irish “Shamrock”, which Saint Patrick used as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity of the Catholic fate. the Shamrock having four leaflets forming a single leaf by definition – God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Such metaphors are not uncommon in other religions where multifaceted deities are represented this way.

But, the Shamrock metaphor doesn’t explain the luck associated with the fourth leaflet, if anything one would imagine that a fourth leaflet would represent the Devil and so be bad luck. Although some say it is meant to represent God’s grace. According to the Wisegeek site, when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, Eve is supposed to have carried a four leaf clover. “Curiously, the lore of the white clover plant is also associated with repelling snakes, though it didn’t seem to work in the Garden of Eden,” the site says. I suspect the snake-repellant aspect comes from the Irish St Patrick legend. Ireland famously has no snakes.

One important aspect of the four-leaf clover myth is that for it to bring luck you must find it serendipitously, there’s no point in searching for one and certainly no point in buying one; several websites offer for sale hand-picked four-leaf clovers! However, if you were a child in the Middle Ages who found a four-leaf clover you would have been given the gift of being able to see fairies and plant sprites…

It’s all superstitious nonsense, steeped in the mythology of religion, in dark times there is a deep-rooted (pardon the pun) psychological need to cling to such ideas of a better life beyond the grave and the idea of good luck associated with a symbolic plant simply reinforces such notions and reminds us of the deep-seated need in many people to postpone thoughts of their own mortality. Whoops…got all heavy there. Apologies. It seems that searching for four-leaf and beyond clovers is a perennial favourite among children and if it gets them out in to their gardens or the countryside on a long hike to search for the biggest then that’s no bad thing. Indeed, the exercise and fresh air will no doubt bring them luck by helping to stave off obesity and type 2 diabetes. Just don’t let them pick any dandelions…it’ll make them wet the bed, you know? [Not really, that’s Deceived Wisdom]

The original short version of this post originally appeared on Sciencebase – 2005-05-19

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rock god.

70 thoughts on “Where to find a four-leaf clover”

  1. I am repeatedly amused by the nonsense comments on this blog post, especially the most recent froom “xxxx” about “he british lottery”. Just hilarious.

  2. 05 leaf clover will permanently make his owner win big at the lottery british superstition in usa it just brings bad luck…in great britain please keep it or go and play at he british lottery online only not the usa lottery

  3. yesterday in my yard i found a four leaf clover and then a HUGE 5 leaf clover. theyre really easy to find!

  4. Finding a 4 leaf-clover has always been easy for me to do, I actually found 28 yesterday, along with one 5 leaf & one 6 leaf!! We have tons of clover in our yard, it usually never takes me over 5 or 10 minutes to find atleast 2 to 3, sometimes more, like yesterday I found all of them within a 10 to 20 minute period!!

  5. I found a 5 leafed clover today. I also found a 4 leafed clover. Yesterday, I found one, the day before I found 3 and last week I found 10. As a rule, I give them away, to share in the luck. I have dozens pressed in a book. I find it hard to believe that they are all that rare. Oh, and I still have not hit that lottery jackpot *sigh*

  6. just found 2-five leafed clovers down at the cabin by the creek….hope my luck and money soon follow! found within the same hour was 3-four leafed clovers…..i am filling soooooooooooooo lucky!!!!!! founded in Iron City, TN on Monday April 12, 2010….sassy & todd….

  7. I found 24 four-leafed clovers, 5 five-leafed clovers and 1 six-leafed clover in just ONE DAY!! I feel soooooooo luckyy!!!

  8. I found the site looking to see how rare the five leaf clover was? My story is simular to Rays, except this was my first five-leafed one. Thank you

  9. This year alone i have picked up around 90 four leaf clovers and 3 five leaf clovers without much searching and in various locations. I have found 1 six leaf in the past. In the past i have picked up 14 four leaf in one patch of clover within a 20 minute time period. I just naturally see them just walking past clover patches. As far as good luck coming from them. Nothing special happening here. Just lucky i can spot them easily when someone else can search the same area for an hour without seeing one and i can walk in the same spot and find one in a minute.

  10. Found a 5 leaf and 4 leaf this weekend in Sothern Maine and wasn’t looking for them. I gave that up years ago. After reading your site, I am very curious if you think there an increase in finds? I am also wondering if you have any suggestions for how best to preserve them?

  11. i have mentioned about my 5 leaf clover to people’s and i have been told cause of ther rareness they are wore some serious cash can you help point me in the right direction Ian Thanx.

  12. I Agree that the rarity of clover finding may seem out of porportion. This may be because of the places where clover is found. My daughter was at her aunts when she decided to help her cousin look for four leaf clovers. That day they found a combined total of 28 and one five. Weeks later the cousin found a 7 leaf clover. like many others the “luck” of the Irish is deep seeded in myth alone. I have found that laminating them is a great way to preserve them. My daughter was blessed with a sixth toe and she is over-all lucky she has won several raffles. Thanks for all the information here, perhaps more people will start to study this phenomina with so many now being found, hmmm could global warming have some effect, times are changing and so to must plants to survive.

  13. Hey, thanx for the info. Ive looked for an hour and finally stumbled onto your sight. You have answered bout all my questions. I could say its good luck, but I dont wanna start an arguement!! lol

  14. I found a five-leaf clover this past Sunday while talking to my Marine son at Camp Pendleton, CA who has been to Iraq twice and is coming home to visit this weekend. And it’s not good luck? Bust my bubble!

  15. I found lots of 4 leaf clovers and only one clover. on another website I read that a 5 leaf clover is bad luck I’m confused now so which one is it?

  16. Sir I read where four leaf clovers appear about 1 out of every 10,000……….in a patch about 6″ in diameter i found eight four leaf clovers. In the past two weeks I have found a total of about 30 four leaf clovers and four five leaf clovers

  17. I have thousands of five leaf clovers in my garden still have not won the lotto got good health thou

  18. @Melanie Well done you. Of course luck may be proportional to the number of leaves on a single specimen but I hope for your sake that it’s not inversely proportional to the number of specimens found ;-) I must admit I am continually amazed at how fascinating people find this ludicrously puerile subject…

  19. I found 28 four leaf and 10 five leaf clovers today (some were big and some were really small) while my kids were picking clover for our chickens to eat. Wasn’t even looking to begin with, just happened. I taped them all on a sheet of paper together. I am amazed to have found all in one day, it’s been years since I have even seen a four leaf clover. I have researched pictures on the internet to compare and they are clover, they do not look like any kind of other plant. Have a great day.

  20. today is april 22. i have always been able to find four leaf clovers but today i found a six leaf clover and my mom put it in her bible . is there a meaning behind this.

    thanks for any reply


  21. I find four-leaf clovers all the time- i was on my way to appying for Guiness-but I needed to fax them something-and i havent gotten around to any of that-no time- but anyway my point is that 4-leaf clovers are not as rare as most think>>>i just read above- some guy said theres like 1 in 10,000>>> i found about 9 in one day in the same area of grass- not to mention all of the 5-leaf and 6-leaf clovers Ive found

  22. Hey i was just wondering what was up with a 5 leaf clover because i have 2 two of them now that i found today. I’m headed to get some lottery tickets and see what happens. If i win you will be the first to know.

  23. I officially love you. My entire blog (well, not the bits about lolcats, skeptical comedians or being hit by cars) is about the science of superstition! I must look into this further… thanks! :)

    By the way, recently completed a major survey into one of the luck scales and there’s some interesting findings to be reported… will reveal over the next few months as a part of my dissertation!

  24. Well…Wade…if anyone is stupid enough to believe that a mutant clover specimen is going to affect their life’s path in any way, then I guess they’d be stupid enough to buy one of your “charms” too. Of course, the myth has it that you have to “find” the 4-leaf clover for it to have any lucky effect, rather than buying it embedded in resin from some cheap website, but, as we all know, a fool and their money are easily parted. Do you have an affiliate program? Maybe I could cash in too! Thanks for the spam. Sorry, I disabled your link.

  25. Well here is a web site that you can buy one of these “lucky” charm for keep sake.
    It’s really nice and pretty…. check it out…
    luckycharm4me dot com

  26. Bobby, thanks for the input, yes, you’re right, I was a bit too quick to accept Zemanta’s image suggestion. I’ve switched the sorrel for some genuine clover now…hopefully. I don’t know much about maples, except I enjoy their sap on my porridge in the morning ;-)

  27. I think your photo is not clover but the weed wood-sorrel (Oxalis). I’ve never seen a four-leafed wood-sorrel before, but I pull the stuff up.
    Based on childhood experience, if a clover plant has a four-leafed leaf it is much more likely to have another one than a random plant. This suggests a strong genetic predisposition towards excess leaflets.
    I also frequently found fractional leaves, i.e. a 3 1/4 leaf clover (1 leaflet was partially duplicated). Has anyone studied this?
    Along the same lines, does anyone know anything about 3-leafed maple trees? Unlike four-leafed clovers, I’ve had horrible luck with them. I noticed the first 3-leafed seedling many years ago and marked it so my father wouldn’t pull it up. He didn’t see the marker & pulled it up anyway. I found it before it died & planted it in a pot. It began to recover, put out a side branch with 3 tiny leaves, & something bit off the stem. Ever since then I’ve tried to find another… It’s fairly common to find a seedling that starts out 3-leafed, but they almost always (if they don’t die first) switch back to 2-leafed (I’ve noticed the same thing with elm seedlings; is extra leaves in seedlings a general phenomenon?). The best I’ve got is a 3 year old maple where the main stalk is still 3-leafed but all the side branches are 2-leafed.

  28. Wow, I’m amazed at the responses on this topic. Nice to see you’re turning yourself into an astrologer David. Maybe you should do a blog post on the science of “luck” :P

  29. I find most of my 4 and 5 leaf clovers in school yards, around shady awnings and also in sunny fields. Not sure sunlight or shade makes the difference . I think it must be the soil. If anyone really figures the truth out, I would LOVE to know!

  30. last august i found
    18 four leaf clovers and 3 five leaf clovers in less than 10 minutes.

    today i found 4 five leaf clovers and 1 four leaf clover in my backyard.
    kind of gets addicting. once i accidently see one then i want to find another one.
    seems like if i intentionally look down for either a fourleaf or a five leaf i can’t find either, but when im not even thinking about it i see one and then many more.
    i got on here and searched about them because
    i thought maybe i was setting a record but
    looks like i’m not the only multiple clover finder out there.

  31. This evening I was in my backyard and looked down and saw a4 leaf clover. Of course I bent over and picked it only to also see another 4 leaf and a 5 leaf. I was ecstatic until my daughter pointed out that 2 fours and an eight add up to “13”. Is this really good luck or am I inbig trouble???

  32. just wanted to let the world know that i found a five leaf clover in central, ohio i hope this myth is true. so i also sit back and wait for the extra special luck, and of course the money.

  33. I found a five leaf clover in my backyard in a very sunny spot i don’t think light affects the matter

  34. From my observations it’s not the soil that affects the number of clover leaves. Most of the 4 leaf clovers I find are in a spot that recieves less light. Under trampolines are a great place to look for 4 leaf clovers. All 5,6,7 clovers that I have found were in an area that recieved a lot of shade, like under a tree. Oh and a lot of times in a shady area if you find one there are others within a foot radius. I really think photosynthesis has a lot to do with 4,5,6,7 and 8+ leaf clovers!

  35. Chelsea, 16 five leaf clovers in one day? Something is surely up with that! I am interested in what type of soil they are growing in, and if it is over a nuclear waste plant.

  36. I found a four leaf clover, then I found a five. I just keep on finding them…I found an 8 leaf clover the other day…what is the best way to preserve them??Can I put thim in a photo album? Anyone????I think I have about 80 of them, some 4/5/6/7/8 was the highest. No extra luck yet…

  37. My brother Xavier found a five leaf clover by my house while he was looking for a four leaf clover and he found 16 of them so he wanted to find more and he found a five leaf clover…and they are suppose to bring extra luck….we see what happends….

  38. I have been finding 1, or 2, four leaf clovers a day, but yesterday I found a four, and five leaf clover. I did play the lottery and did not win. I feel the love of my late mother, every time I find a four leaf clover. She could find them, while I never could. Now, they just appear. I do feel God has something to do with this. I would hate to think that a rare 5 leaf clover would bring anything bad.

  39. Fundamentally, the foliage count of a clover plant has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the wellbeing, fate, or any other aspects of the life of someone who plucks it from the ground. Four-leaf or five-leaf, 100-leaf clovers are no more lucky or unlucky than the C key on my laptop keyboard. Moreover, if you’re entering a 6 from 60 number lottery you’ve got about as much chance of winning as you have of finding a 6-leaf clover. Save your money and enjoy the sunshine.


  40. today I came across 2 five leaf clovers in my backyard, in the same little patch. I was curious so searched and found this site and a few others. Majority opinion is they do bring good luck in the wealth category, but also one thought is they bring sickness and death to the discoverer. I think I’ll go buy a lottery ticket, and then work on my will. LOL Wish me luck.

  41. Ella, almost certainly the mutation is due to some exogenous material affecting the growth of the plant, whether or not that is a pot of gold or not is a different matter, do you commonly see the terminals of semicircular diffuse visible spectral manifestation phenomena in your garden at this point?

  42. I have a patch of four and five leaf clovers in my backyard and have realized that I can see the mutation of a three-leaf clover into a four-leaf, and then into a five-leaf clover. The leaves literally mutate into two leaves. The thing is that the four and five leaf clovers only occur in one spot of my yard. I think there might be a connection between where clovers grow or what species of clover it is, and the fact that it is a many-leafed clover. Perhaps there is a pot of gold under my clover patch??

  43. That’s quite amazing Alan, but you must spend a lot of time peering at the ground while you walk to have found so many. Personally, I’d rather keep my head up, I don’t think I could bear the bad luck back ache brings.

  44. Over the past couple of weeks during our wonderful Spring weather I have found over 30, 4 leaf clovers during my morning exercise walks. Also I found 3, 5 leaf clovers.

    My late wife every year during the Spring found many 4, 5 and occasionally 6 leaf clovers. She claimed before we met that she had found a 7. One day not long after we moved to Athens, Georgia she found over 30, 4 leafs and a couple 5s. Last week I took envelopes of old clovers she found and laminated them. Myself I have found them in many countries and states during my travels. In 2003, I found 7 one morning while walking in Limerick, Ireland.


  45. I too found a five leaf clover in Peidmont Park. It was in a big field. I believe that because five leaf clovers are rarer they represent good fortune and are luckier than four leaf clovers. That is what every person told me that i asked. MY boyfriend keeps it pressed in his wallet, but no really extraordinarily good luck yet……besides the fact that we are madly in love.

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