Your palms are sweaty. Your foot is tap, tap, tapping on the floor. You bite your nails and look nervously at the clock. Only a minute until the teacher passes out the test and you're wishing you had studied a lot more last night. You close your eyes and send up a silent prayer for good fortune as your best friend wishes you good luck.
But there's no time to rush outside to search for a four-leaf clover. And what would be the point anyway? What are the odds of finding a four-leaf clover?
Experts would tell you that the odds of finding a four-leaf clover are about 1 in 10,000. Yikes! Those aren't very good odds. Given the rarity of four-leaf clovers, it's no WONDER they're a symbol of good luck. You have to be really lucky to find one!
Although there are various types of clover, the type we're talking about when discussing four-leaf clovers is known as Trifolium repens, or white clover. Trifolium is a Latin word that means "three leaf." That explains why 99.99% of clovers you find only have three leaves.
Clovers with four (or more) leaves are the result of mutations or recessive genes in the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of clover plants. In the last few years, some scientists have isolated what they believe are the genes responsible for four-leaf clovers.
As rare as four-leaf clovers are, clovers with five or six leaves are even rarer. Currently, the world record for most leaves on a single clover stem is 56. That incredible specimen was found in Japan in 2009.
The association of four-leaf clovers with good luck has ancient roots. In fact, an ancient Christian legend holds that Eve took a four-leaf clover with her when she left the Garden of Eden so she could remember what Paradise was like.
More recent Irish traditions hold that Saint Patrick used the three-leaf clover, also called a shamrock, to teach about the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A fourth leaf was thought to symbolize God's grace.
Today, many cultures believe the leaves of the three-leaf clover represent faith, hope, and love. And if you find a four-leaf clover, what does that fourth leaf symbolize? You guessed it: luck!