Four leaf clover

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The four-leaf clover is an uncommon variation of the common three-leaf clover. According to superstition, such leaves bring good luck to their finders, especially if found accidentally.

Clovers can have more than four leaflets. The most leaflets ever recorded is eighteen. It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover.

According to legend, each leaflet represents something: the first is for hope, the second is for faith, the third is for love, and the fourth is for happiness.If a lady hangs a 4 leaf clover on her door, the next man to come in is her husband.

It is debated whether the fourth leaflet is caused genetically or environmentally. Its rarity suggests a possible recessive gene appearing at a low frequency. Alternatively, four-leaf clovers could be caused by somatic mutation or a developmental error of environmental causes. They could also be caused by the interaction of several genes that happen to segregate in the individual plant. It is possible all four explanations could apply to individual cases.

If finding a four-leaf clover brings the luck of the Irish, Edward Martin Sr. of Cooper Landing, Alaska, just might be a full-blooded leprechaun.

Symbolic correlates

The myths and symbolism of the four-leaf clover is endemic to Celtic traditions and may be seen transposed into the Celtic cross.

The four-leaf clover is often confused with the Shamrock
. While the four-leaf clover is a symbol of "good luck," the three-leaf Shamrock is a mainly Irish Catholic symbol of the Holy Trinity.

Martin, 76, holds the world record for finding the most four-leaf clovers, amassing a collection of more than 160,000 and counting -- each one painstakingly picked by hand. This Monday marks his first St. Patrick's Day as the titleholder, but how he got there is a story that begins a lifetime and a world away.

Martin was born in 1931 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and as a child felt an inexplicable "driving force" to seek out patches of green clover amid the borough's concrete and steel. Almost always, Martin still recalls, he managed to spot at least one four-leaf clover among the more common three-leaf standard.

Martin fills those days now, as one might expect, still finding more clover and resting easy, believing no challenger comes close to his growing total. With the record on the books, some folks have suggested he sell his collection, which sits in boxes at his eldest son's house. Martin said he likes the idea, hoping the clover's luck could rub off on whoever bought them.

"It's a good way to get rid of depression," he said, laughing.

As to how he -- a self-described "old man" in small-town Alaska, with no fixed address -- would go about finding the right buyer, that's an answer, he says, he hasn't stumbled upon yet.
"People keep saying why don't I put them on eBay and see what people will pay for them," he fretted.

"I don't even know how to get on eBay."

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Shamrocks and clovers

Good question: Are shamrocks and four-leaf clovers the same thing?

Answer: Not on your luck (of the Irish). "Shamrocks" are the more common three-leaf variety, whose name is a corruption of "seamrog," Irish for "summer clover" or "young clover." In Ireland, such trifolium were once used to explain the Holy Trinity of the Catholic Church -- or at least that's how the legend goes.

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