Aye and begorrah - Saint Patrick’s Day is upon us, as are all things green. Whether or not you choose to indulge in a green beer is your call, but one thing that will be nearly impossible to avoid today are shamrocks.
|Medicago lupulina (Black medick)|
is one of the four "shamrocks"
commonly worn in Ireland
So now that we're past the etymology, what genus and species of plant is this "little clover"? Apparently, not even the Irish have reached a consensus about this. A 1988 survey conducted at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin revealed that when the Irish wear the "shamrock," it can be any one of four different plants (none of which are Florida natives), including Black medick (Medicago lupulina) and three different species of Trifolium. As if that wasn't enough, a number of members of the Oxalis (Woodsorrel) family are also worn as shamrocks.
|Trifoliate leaves have three leaflets|
Since we've already established that there is no "Real McCoy" species of shamrock, I think it's fair to say that Florida has at least four native shamrocks:
- Trifolium carolinianum (Carolina Clover)
|Trifolium reflexum, Buffalo Clover|
- Trifolium reflexum (Buffalo Clover)
- Oxalis corniculata (Common Yellow or Creeping Woodsorrel)
Carolina Clover is only found in the north portions of the state, and Tufted Yellow Woodsorrel is limited further to the northwest part of the panhandle. As for Buffalo Clover - I'm stumped. Either we haven't been looking for it hard enough or it is extremely picky about where it will grow. There are vouchered specimens from only five of Florida's 67 counties, and only two of the five are adjacent to one another.
|Oxalis corniculata (Common Yellow|
or Creeping Woodsorrel), a FL native,
can be found throughout the state
So... If you think you see a leprechaun in the Sunshine State today, you might want to check in with your optometrist, but if you see something gold at the end of a rainbow, it might just be a field of Florida's most common shamrock.