Remember searching for a four-leaf clover when you were a kid and never finding one?
That got us wondering, this St. Patrick’s Day, what's the truth about four-leaf clovers?
For context, we're looking at popular news articles, university research and crawling around on the ground with Daniel Cunningham, a horticulturalist with Texas A&M University.
“Are four-leaf clovers a thing?” I asked him.
“They 100 percent are a thing,” Cunningham said.
How do we know? First, people find them and websites write about them, like this woman in England.
And then there are the scientists at the University of Georgia who isolated the gene that causes the four-leaf variety.
"Every once in a while, there's a mutation,” Cunningham said. “Whether that's a genetic mutation or an environmental factor there could be four, five, even six leaflets on the plant somewhere.”
So, how rare is a four-leaf clover?
You can find lots of online stories and videos, like this one from Scientific American Magazine, that cite a claim that it's 1-in-10,000. But there is no published research to back this up.
Another widely reported number is 1-in-5,000. That comes from this Swiss site. They claim to have done 59 searches, in 35 locations in six countries. Maybe. But again, no published research on how they got that number
So how rare are they? No one knows.
But we do know they are for real. It’s just that Cunningham and I couldn’t find one, and the chances are luck won’t be on your side either.