What Are the Odds of Finding a Four-Leaf Clover?

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Clovers are a common type of herb, occurring naturally in many parts of the world. While it doesn’t live long, this plant has a lot of uses. Each tiny stalk usually features compound leaves with three-toothed leaflets. However, at times you may find a rare four-leaf clover. In some cultures, a four leaf clover is thought to be a sign of good luck. [5]

In the earlier records about this plant (which date back to 1640), it was simply mentioned that the ‘fower-leafed or purple grasse’ is beneficial for keeping in gardens so that it might come in handy for herbal medication. [4]

Four Leaf Clover in Irish Tradition

Four-leaf clover

Many people may also attribute Irish culture as the originator of the belief that four leaf clovers are lucky. Irish tradition does state that someone who finds a four leaf clover has good luck in their future. This is because every leaf is a symbol of a good omen–love, luck, hope, and faith. [1]

The same tradition also doesn’t consider four leaf covers to be the ability luckiest find. According to Irish legend, a five leaf clover, also known as a rose clover is even more lucky. It’s supposed to indicate that the finder will have better luck and more financial benefit than the one who finds a four leaf clover. Of course, five leaf clovers are even harder to find than the four leaf ones.  The odds of finding a five leaf clover on the first try go all the way up to 1 in 1,000,000. [3]

The Background of Four Leaf Clovers

Several centuries ago in Ireland, the four leaflets of the clover were established as a symbol of hope, love, faith, and success or luck. This was based on the practice of the Druid or the Celtic priests, who would carry a shamrock or three leaf clover to ward off evil spirits. The four leaf clover thus gained even more importance and were regarded as Celtic charms. They were believed to prevent bad luck and also give magical protection  to anyone who held it. During the Middle Ages, children also beloved that they might see fairies if they had a four leaf cover. [8]

Another version of the tradition is that Ireland’s patron saint St. Patrick used the three leaf clover as a symbol of the Trinity. According to legend, he also told his followers that the fourth leaf added luck to the symbol.

The first recorded literary mention of four leaf clovers was by Sir John Melton in 1620. This English politician, merchant, and politician wrote that ‘If a man walking in the fields find any four-leaved grass, he shall in a small while after find some good thing’.

What Do the Surveys Say? 

Lucky charm magic four-leaf clover

With so many people trying to find four leaf clovers and believing in their luck, it’s only natural that there will be studies on the odds of such a find. According to general research and estimates, the odds of finding a four leaf clover growing naturally are 1 in 10,000. However, there have been some surveys and experiments that give different odds than this one. [1]

The 2017 Survey Vs. the Usual Probability

According to one 2017 survey that looked at around 7 million clovers over six countries, the frequency of a four leaf clover was approximately 5000 in one. [2]

The same 7 million clover survey also stated that the odds of finding a five leaf clover is 24,400 to 1. The odds of finding a six leaf clover would be 312,500 to 1. [4]

These probabilities might be discouraging, but there are still a lot of collectors who are determined to find unusual clovers. There have even been collectors who found 160,000 four leaf clovers in their lifetime. [4]

The World Record for Most Four Leaf Clovers in an Hour

On June 23, 2018, American citizen Katie Borka found 166 four leaf clovers in just an hour. This record was broken by another American citizen named Gabriella Gerhardt in Wisconsin. On 21st September 2019, Gerhardt collected 451 four leaf clovers in a single hour. [4]

The odds of finding a four leaf clover can be especially low when St. Patrick’s Day is near. Since this day is celebrated in Canada and America as well as Ireland, a lot more people try to find some lucky clovers when the date is close by. In Canada, it usually snows around that time, making the probability of finding a four leaf clover even more difficult. [2]

Improving the Odds

Improving the Odds

If you’re bent upon finding a four leaf clover (or one with even more leaves), there might be some ways to increase the odds. While the odds still remain around 1 in 10,000, we have to remember that the fourth leaf is due to a specific gene in the plant. This means that if you find a four leaf clover in a certain area, keep looking. There’s a higher probability that other four leaf clovers are also growing nearby. [1] [6]

The gene is also not the only factor here. The temperature of a particular place, the pH level of its soil, and the pollution level there can all cause a clover to grow another leaf or two. This again points to the likelihood of several four leaf clovers in the same area. [1]

Improving the Odds with Statistics

If we assume that the probability of finding a four leaf clover anywhere is around 1 in 10,000, we can work on finding it using a bit of mathematics. There are around 10,000 clovers in 1,2 square meters or 12.9 square meters. Since it will take a long time to look at each and every clover, the best option is to crouch close to them and take a good look at a group of clovers. We also have to keep in mind that there could be many clover layers in one patch. You can also try brushing the clovers with your feet to see the stems underneath. [1]

The Best Times to Search for a Four Leaf Clover

The fall and spring are usually the best times to search for four leaf clovers. The clover is more plentiful then, and you can probably have several thousand stems packed in a small piece of ground. Some sources say that August, June, July, April, March, and May are the best months for finding a four leaf clover. [7]

The Best Places to Search for a Four Leaf Clover

Four leaf clovers are also more commonly found in areas that have been trampled or have a lot of foot traffic. While the increase in probability is still undocumented, you might have a better chance with clover patches alongside trails and paths. [7]

A person can also increase their chances of finding a four leaf clover by selecting a certain patch near their home. They can then return to this same patch and keep searching the area each time. This practice will result in a thorough search, making it more likely to find a clover with four leaves even if it’s hiding in a lower layer. [7]

What Are the Odds of Finding a Four-Leaf Clover

Conclusion

Once you do find a four leaf clover, you might put it into water immediately. Otherwise it can wilt within seconds of being picked. Another popular option is to press it in a book so that it dries out and retains its form.

Whether we believe that four leaf clovers are good luck or not, it’s still a nice feeling to find one. Some people might make a competition of this search, while others might just take it as a fun pastime. In any case, finding a four leaf clover growing naturally is quite rare, so it takes some luck to locate it in the first place.

Resources:

  1. http://thescienceexplorer.com/nature/what-are-your-chances-finding-four-leaf-clover
  2. https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/news/article/st-patricks-day-what-are-your-odds-of-finding-a-four-leaf-clover#:~:text=A%20quick%20Google%20search%20says,no%20matter%20how%20you%20slice
  3. https://blog.minitab.com/en/odds-ratios-st-pattys-day-4-leaf-clovers-all-that-lucky
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four-leaf_clover
  5. https://www.britannica.com/plant/clover-plant
  6. https://statisticsbyjim.com/fun/probability-theory-helps-find-more-four-leaf-clovers/
  7. https://www.wikihow.com/Find-a-Four-Leaf-Clover
  8. https://www.woodlandsonline.com/npps/story.cfm?nppage=69552
  9. http://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-four-leaf-clovers/

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