Springtime is approaching and what comes to mind in March is St. Patrick's Day and on this day you might think of shamrocks. But don't mistake the white pinkish clover seen in the yard to be an actual shamrock because there is a difference.

The shamrock is a three-leaved clover with a small starry bloom that was used by St. Patrick to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity and later became the national symbol of Ireland. The shamrock became an Irish symbol while a four-leaf clover bloom is American, and to associate the four-leaf clover with a shamrock is offensive to some Irish people.

A four-leaf clover is an oddity or deformity of a three-leaf clover plant or "white clover." The white clover is a deep green flowering vine with white pinkish blossoms. Shamrocks have a history of folk meaning pertaining to the earth, which some say Ancient Druids found to be symbolic of regenerative powers of nature, but the rare four-leaf clover has a superstition that finding this clover depicts luck.

The shamrock is eaten as a salad and because it is a heart-shaped plant. it's also is known as the "Love Plant." Since early 1700, it has been traditional on St. Patrick's Day to wear a sprig of clover in a hat band or on the lapel of a garment to bring good luck and prosperity to that person.

The cousin to the shamrock is the clover plant of different colors from white, pink and purplish red and is found blooming from spring until late October. It thrives in meadowlands, pastures, fields and front lawns. Red clover is a wild edible plant with a reddish round flower that is used as food for cattle but also has a history in folk medicine. The Chinese used this plant as medicine for colds and to purify the blood, and burned it as incense. In other cultures, it was used to treat whooping cough, respiratory problems, psoriasis, eczema and cancer. Native Americans used clover as a salve for burns and bronchial problems. The red clover is the tastiest of all the clovers with the flower and leaves of the plant ideal for human consumption and can be used in salads or teas. Before any wild plant is consumed, it is recommended to read information on preparation and possible side effects.

Do not get confused and think the crimson clover is the red clover. Crimson clover has a deep red elongated bloom and is used in some agriculture management. It is an ideal food for deer and is a good nectar source for bees and pollination.

Clover is a good food source for bees and certain clovers are more ideal for the honey bee and not for the nectar but because of the shape of the flower. If the clover flower tube is too deep, the honey bee tongue can't reach the nectar, but if the red clover is not ideal for the honey bee it is liked by other nectar-feeding bees. Clover is great for the production of honey but there have been case studies of whether local clover honey reduces allergies. It was found that a majority of seasonal allergies come from trees and grasses and not flower pollen, but the biggest reason that clover honey is not the cure for allergies is bees do not make honey from pollen - they make it from nectar. Whether or not raw honey is the cure-all for allergies it makes no difference, if it tastes good and you like it, the other health benefits of eating clover honey outweighs the allergy cure.

The 2019 season at the Joe Ford Nature Center will be introducing to the public four educational nature events. These events will be in part a fundraiser so the center can continue providing activities for the Owensboro, Daviess County and surrounding communities.

We will kick off the first "It's All for the Birds" from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 30. During this event there will be bird identification, noting the correct feeder to use for certain species, learning the call of local birds, a small craft for children under 12 and animal handling. No registration is needed. It is come and go, but we are asking to consider bringing a monetary donation for the center. Young and old should enjoy this fun-filled day of nature activity and we at the Joe Ford Nature Center are looking forward to meeting you.

Nature Notes runs each Wednesday in Community. Deborah Branch can be reached by phone at 270-344-0596 or my email at jfncdirector2017@gmail.com. To get to JFNC take Second Street (U.S. 60 West) to GRADD Way.

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