Leading Irish botanist warns people will be fooled on Saint Patrick’s Day and that the real Irish shamrock is dying out.

Leading botanist Dr. Declan Doogue of the Royal Irish Academy warned that the real shamrock is dying out in Ireland and that many people will be fooled on St. Patrick’s Day.

In the real shamrock’s place, bogus shamrock plants are being used, Doogue also stated that modern farming methods and the loss of hay meadows had now “engulfed” the shamrock's natural territory, which was “a disaster.”

Woman selling shamrock on Henry Street, on St. Patrick's Day.

Woman selling shamrock on Henry Street, on St. Patrick's Day.

Doogue stated to the Irish Times in an interview some time back that there were various fake or bogus shamrock plants, but the real one was the Trifolium dubium (lesser trefoil), a type of clover found in “unimproved grassland” of which there is hardly any left in Ireland.

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Doogue said modern farming methods and the loss of traditional hay meadows had “engulfed” the national plant’s territory, which was “a disaster from a wildlife point of view.”

Despite the loss of its habitat, he said the shamrock was resilient in parts of Ireland “in short grass and on waysides, even in some parts of Dublin.” It does best, he added, “in a sunny, free-draining site.”

Irish leader Leo Varadkar presents the traditional bowl of shamrocks to President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melanie, in 2018.

Irish leader Leo Varadkar presents the traditional bowl of shamrocks to President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melanie, in 2018.

Doogue stated that the bogus plant was actually growing in “lush grasslands” and was Trifolium repens (white clover). He stated that this was probably what most people wear due to the difficulty in finding the real thing.

Another expert, Prof John Parnell, curator of the herbarium at Trinity College Dublin, said there was another bogus plant called Medicago lupulina (black medic), which has three green leaves but is not a clover and was also “often sold and worn as shamrock.”

Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wearing shamrock on St. Patrick's Day.

Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, wearing shamrock on St. Patrick's Day.

But the botanists sadly confirmed that shamrock was not “remotely exclusively Irish,” and can be found in Britain and throughout northwest Europe.

Do you wear shamrock on St. Patrick's Day? Have you found it difficult to find the iconic Irish plant? Let us know in the comments section below.

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