What Are Your Chances of Finding a Four-Leaf Clover?

March 17, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

four leaf clover
Photo credit:

And how can you improve them?

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day and, as Irish legend would have it, finding a four-leaf clover would make you extra lucky. In the original story, Saint Patrick gave a four-leaf clover to a group of his followers and told them that the fourth leaf was put there by God to bring luck — the first three leaves represented hope, faith, and love.

So if you’re down on your luck and are looking for a four-leaf clover, you might be wondering what your chances of actually finding one are. The short answer is: 1 in 10,000. The long answer involves knowing that the gene for a fourth leaf is inheritable, which means that if you find one four-leaf clover, you are more likely to find a second one in the same area. Furthermore, just having the gene isn’t enough, a clover has to sprout in the right conditions — temperature, pollution, soil pH — to grow a fourth leaf, which further suggests that they are likely to grow in similar areas.

SEE ALSO: The Science Behind Our Stubborn Superstitions

If we go back to the simple assumption that the likelihood that any particular clover has four leaves in 1 in 10,000, how big an area would you have to search to be statistically likely to find one? About 12.9 square feet or 1.2 square meters, according to the Scientific American video below.

In the video, editor Eric R. Olson explains that it would take far too long to examine every single clover and that you are actually best to glance them over and let any peculiarities pop out. You should also remember that there are multiple layers of clovers. Technical writer Jim Frost recommends brushing the area you are looking at with your foot to reveal the plants hidden underneath.

Did you know that the four leaves aren’t actually leaves at all? They are leaflets that together all make a single leaf. Thus, whether your clover has three, four or even 56 (the world record) leaflets, it is really a one-leaf clover.

Good luck!


Hot Topics

Facebook comments