I love mid-March because everything starts turning green……must be the luck of the Irish. I can’t wait to get out on my deck and survey the landscape with my good friend Patty O’ Furniture and a cold beverage……Happy St. Patricks day! A table decoration often seen at a St. Patricks event would be a “Shamrock” as pictured to the right. It’s actually Oxalis acetosella and points out the fact there is much confusion to what is an actual “Shamrock”. I saw an old archived article by the New York Times dated March 4, 1893 in which the botanist Nathaniel Colgan identified the plant that St. Patrick used to illustrate the doctrine of the trinity as Trifolium repens or Trifolium minus. Tri meaning three and folium meaning leaf obviously refers to the three leafed national emblem of the Irish. If the “Shamrock” of lore is Trifolium repens it is a clover also known as white clover or Dutch clover. Was it Trifolium repens or Dutch clover used by St. Patrick to explain the trinity and later worn in the lapels to become the loved national emblem? For a Dutch guy like me that sheds a whole new light on St. Patricks day and reason to wear green even though I’m not Irish. Maybe I can be “in clover” too and use a 4 leaf clover from my yard to cancel a Leprechaun’s magic (even though I rarely see one in my yard). The trifoliate plant originally was called Seamrog which became shamrog then shamrock has been translated to mean “little clover”. Or was the original plant a type of Wood Sorrel (Oxalis) related to the plants used for decorating today? Was the plant possible Black Medic? (Medicago lupulina) If the plant was Trifolium repens (white or Dutch clover) which most believe, it may have helped drive all the snakes in Ireland into the sea 1,500 years ago, but today drives many lawn lovers nuts with it’s ubiquitous nature. Clover is a cool season perennial in lawns that aggressively establishes itself where nutrients, primarily nitrogen, is deficient. It is in the Pea family and is a nitrogen fixing plant. Nitrogen fixation is the process by which nitrogen is taken from it’s inert molecular form in the atmosphere and converted into nitrogen compounds. Plants in the legume family like clover, beans, alfalfa and peanuts produce nitrogen compounds in their root systems that help them grow and compete with other plants. When one of these plants dies, the fixed nitrogen is released fertilizing the soil. Here’s the cool part……biological nitrogen fixation was discovered by the Dutch microbiologist Martinus Beijerinck! I’m just building a case here to enjoy a little green beer with my Irish friends! The earliest mentions of the word “Shamrock” in English literature was in 1571. From the authors it is clear the plant grew in the woods of Ireland, had a sour taste and was commonly eaten by man. Since that time the case has been built that it’s OK for a Dutch boy like me to celebrate my Irish friends and their rich heritage with a clover in my pocket and a sip of the green brew……Happy St. Patricks day my friends!