Scientist Discovered the Secret of Breeding Four-Leaf Clovers … And Was Surprised at the Public’s Reaction

Did you find a four-leaf clover this St. Patrick’s Day? Was it Luck o’ the Irish? … Or was it science?

Four-leaf clover is rare: only about 1 in 10,000 clover plants grow four leaflets. But thanks to science, that may be changing.

Wayne Parrott, a researcher at the University of Georgia, has identified the area where the gene for the four-leaf trait is located in the genome of the common clover species. The gene itself is yet to be identified, Parrott pointed out to Inside Science, “You know it’s inside this locked trunk and we don’t have the key to open it.”

Parrott didn’t set out working on helping out St. Patrick’s Day revellers – instead, he had focused on trying to breed clovers as ornamental plants. Unfortunately, rabbits love to munch on clovers, so Parrott’s lab worked on creating rabbit-deterring clover which contained almost all four-leaf varieties.

You’d think that people would be happy to find Parrott’s four-leaf clovers, but Parrott said that people’s reaction was overwhelmingly negative. “We had taken the entire mystery and excitement out of it. The value comes from the fact that they’re rare, and if they’re not rare, it does take the fun out.”

Image: Shamrock by Michael Creese

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