Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 67

shamrock - Badge of Ireland

species trifolium

The name applied to several different plants with leaves divided into three leaflets, including wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and various species of clover (Trifolium species). Although adopted as the national emblem of Ireland, and worn each year on 17 March to commemorate St Patrick, its true botanical identity remains uncertain, although many regard lesser trefoil (Trifolium dubium) a likely candidate. It is a slender annual growing to 25 cm/10 in; flowers yellow, up to 15 clustered in tiny stalked heads up to 9 mm/0·35 in across, petals later turning dark brown; native to Europe, N Africa, and the W African islands (Macaronesia). (Family: Leguminosae.)

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