I'm looking over a dozen four-leaf clovers
June 8, 2006 6:29 AM   Subscribe

What's the proportion of four-leaf clovers among white clover?

So I seeded some white clover in my back yard last year in the hopes of getting something to grow (grass has trouble it seems). So everything is looking good now. Oddly, between my daugther and myself we've pulled about a dozen four-leaf clovers out of the lawn this year. Which seems sort of unusually high. Has there ever been a study of the rate of four-leaf clovers? Is this a typical event whose frequency could be predicted by genetics?
White clover has the more rounded leaves and not the heart-shaped ones if it matters.
posted by GuyZero to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
White clover seems to have more four-leaf stems than any of the others. I'm pretty good at finding them.... you can find ones with 5, 6, 7, etc.... I've got a few with 9. Last summer I'd go out to the clover patch and come back in with a dozen a DAY. I glued them all to a white panel- great conversation piece! Most people don't believe that they're real, though.
I realize that this isn't an "answer"..........
posted by cometwendy at 7:01 AM on June 8, 2006

Has there ever been a study of the rate of four-leaf clovers?

I'd bet some drunken, spotlight-seeking botanist has probably already done this; maybe start with Google Scholar. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if companies that sell clover seeds use strains bred for a higher-than-usual occurance of four leaflets. Ah, this page suggests that's the case. Wikipedia mentions but doesn't source a 10,000-to-one ratio between 3 leaves and 4, and I've seen that number elsewhere, too (which doesn't mean it's not completely made up, of course). Assuming it's right, we'd need to know how big your clover area is to know if a dozen finds in a backyard is really unusually high. Try counting the plants in a square foot and multiplying it out.
posted by mediareport at 7:44 AM on June 8, 2006

There are various strains of clover available (not counting similar-looking plants that are not actually trifoliums) and even within a single type such as white clover you can have a lot of variation depending on where you get the seeds.

Frequently you do not get an exact clone from seed, which is where cultivars come from. A seedling has some different characteristics from the parent plant and someone finds it likable so they name it and start propagating it. I almost never see a four-leaf clover in the large patches of white clover in my yard, but there are white clovers available that have a really high number of fours and even fives. And there is at least one clover available that claims to be almost entirely four-leaf.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 10:53 AM on June 8, 2006

People like you make "4 leaf" an evolutionary disadvantage, and decrease the proportion of them in future generations of clover in a given patch, because you pick them before they can breed. (Feel guilty!)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2006

you pick them before they can breed

That assumes it's a strictly hereditary trait and not something triggered by an environmental factor.

I don't feel guilty 'cause I mow the crap out of it every weekend anyway. So not much of my clover goes to seed. And I have a push-powered reel-mower, so I'm past guilt into downright enjoyment.

But great answers, thanks! I wish I had looked for 4-leaf seeds when I bought them.
posted by GuyZero at 3:19 PM on June 8, 2006

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