The clover flower, or trefoil, has over 300 species of plants in the family Fabaceae, genus Trifolium. The name comes from ‘tres’ meaning three, and ‘folium’ meaning leaf. While they originated in Europe, they are widespread today across much of the Northern Hemisphere. Famous as a traditional Irish charm, these lovely flowers are packed with meaning and symbolism in the language of flowers.
Clover is any Trifolium having trifoliolate leaves, dense head flowers, and members of the legume family. ‘Clover’ was first used prior to the 12th century and comes from Old English clāfre.
Zohary and Heller divided the genus into eight sections in 1984: Lotoidea, Paramesus, Mistyllus, Vesicanridula, Chronosemium, Trifolium, Trichoecephalum, and Involucrarium.
Clover Flower Meaning & Symbolism
The meaning and symbolism of clover flowers are closely associated with good fortune and luck, whether they are four-leaved or not. They are a sign of protection and male energy and can be a charm against hexes and negativity.
In the Victorian era, when floriography was most practiced, clovers were often included in bouquets as symbols of good luck and to convey messages of remembrance, good health, and spiritual growth. The clover’s prevalence in fields and meadows across Europe and North America made it a recognizable and charming addition to any floral message.
An Irish Charm
Celtic priests and druids carried the shamrock, a three-leaf clover, to see when evil spirits approached. Four-leaved clovers were Celtic charms to ward off bad luck and offer protection to the carrier.
Traditionally, the shamrock clover is an Irish cultural symbol, appearing on the Erin Go Bragh flag and used by St. Patrick for a visual representation of Ireland’s identity. You’ll see the flower emblazoned on Irish uniforms and on the national airline Aer Lingus as well.
Clover Flower Colors and Their Meanings
In floriography, the language of flowers, the clover plant carries various meanings, each nuanced by the specific type of clover and cultural context.
White Clover (Trifolium repens):
White clover is commonly associated with thoughts of “think of me” or “remember me always.” It’s a plant that’s often linked to the nostalgia of childhood and innocence, as many people have spent idle hours in their youth searching for the elusive four-leafed clover.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense):
Red clover, with its deeper hue, is often connected with industriousness and the virtue of hard work, perhaps due to its association with the diligent bees that are attracted to its blossoms. It can also represent protection and the nurturing of dreams.
Above all, the four-leaf clover is an almost universally recognized symbol of good luck. Each leaf in the four-leaf clover has a specific meaning — faith, hope, love, and luck. Finding a four-leaf clover is considered a rare event, thus making it a powerful symbol for the unexpected fortunes of life.
Shamrock (Young White Clover or Three-Leaf Clover):
The Shamrock, a type of young white clover, is heavily associated with Irish culture and St. Patrick’s Day. It’s believed that St. Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, giving it a strong spiritual meaning linked to St. Patrick and religious faith.
Adam & Eve
Clover legend holds that Eve herself clutched a four-leaf clover as she and Adam fled the Garden of Eden. Three leaf clovers have been said to be the sign of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, where four-leaf clovers add God’s Grace.
In Art & Literature
A beautiful poem, if we may from Ella Higginson that beautifully encapsulates the meaning and symbolism of clover flowers:
Four Leaf Clover by Ella Higginson, “I know a place where the sun is like gold, and the cherry blooms burst with snow, and down underneath is the loveliest nook, where the four-leaf clovers grow. One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith, and one is for love, you know, and God put another in for luck—If you search, you will find where they grow. But you must have hope, and you must have faith, You must love and be strong—and so— If you work, if you wait, you will find the place where the four-leaf clovers grow”.
Suitable Gifting Occasions
In arrangements, red clovers mean hope and industry, while white clovers mean the giver is thinking of the recipient. Clovers are typically not in cut flower arrangements but can be given as a potted plant gift for any occasion. Many times, they are given as a symbol of luck no matter what color of the flower.
Critical for honeybees, a source of natural hot flash medicinal therapy, a ground cover, and a graze for cattle, clover has many uses in society. The symbol of luck and the pride of the Irish, the clover has secured its place in history and found its path in the future. Using clover as an umbrella term for so many species of Trifolium, there are many slight differences between each – from color variances to slight growth pattern changes. Whichever is your favorite, clovers are around for the long haul, so pick your favorite and have them in the house to ward off evil and give your home a touch of Irish luck.