CRAB ORCHARD — Elizabeth Fletcher has quite a hobby.
Others might pick up scrapbooking, stamp collecting or building model cars, but Fletcher decided on a hobby that involves walking to her back yard and staring at the ground — and she’s gotten very good at it.
Fletcher collects four-leaf clovers. While many people might consider finding just one of the rare specimens a once-in-a-lifetime moment, Fletcher can track down an abnormal Trifolium repens in a matter of minutes. Since she began her hunt for the lucky charms about 10 years ago, she’s found more than 21,000 four-, five-, six- and seven-leaf clovers.
Depending on who you ask, world records in the category of clovers vary. Different accounts place the world’s largest four-leaf clover collection anywhere from 76,000 to 160,000 clovers. The current Guinness World Record for most leaves on a single clover is 18, though other news sources have reported on a 21-leaf clover that was found in June 2008.
But regardless of who sits atop the world’s largest clover pile, Fletcher is almost certainly in possession of the biggest bunch in the area, possibly in the state.
At first, 21,000 four-leaf clovers might seem like an impossible collection for one woman to amass in a decade, considering many people never find a single four-leaf clover in their lifetime. But Fletcher is more than willing to let doubters leaf through the pages of her homemade catalogs — mostly Composition notebooks at varying stages of decomposition — and see the clovers for themselves.
Each clover is taped to the page and individually numbered. Some have notes written next to them like the date she picked the clover.
Fletcher doesn’t have to travel far or wide to find clovers. She has found specimens at Logan-Hubble Park and at her granddaughter’s house, but she’s found most of her collection in her own back yard.
“It’s just a pastime,” she said. “It gets me out of the house. It gets me to walk.”
Fletcher’s hobby began in 2000, when she was helping her husband load a truck while it was parked near a telephone pole. Clover was growing at the base of the pole, and when Fletcher looked at it, she spotted a patch of several four-leaf clovers.
“I had never found a clover until I went down and helped him unload that truck,” she said.
Over the years, Fletcher’s collection grew and grew, eventually climbing into the thousands. Fletcher, who stopped working in 2001 after encountering heart problems, said she would go out for a walk and watch for clovers whenever she was home alone and didn’t have anything else to do.
The exercise and fresh air is good for her and it keeps her from getting lazy in front of the television, she said.
By 2004, Fletcher’s collection was nearing 5,000. In more recent years it’s grown by leaps and bounds. Since January 2010, she has added more than 3,000 clovers to her notebooks.
“There’s been a bountiful supply of them this time,” she said.
Four-leaf clovers often stand taller than their three-leaf siblings, making it easier for her to pick them out of a crowd, Fletcher said. Searching for clovers right after a nice rain makes things easier, too, because the clovers perk up when they’ve been watered.
Fletcher goes out looking for clovers as early as mid-January. Despite a cold, snowy winter, she found two four-leaf clovers this January.
Fletcher said spring is the most abundant time to find four-leaf clovers; by summertime the numbers have dwindled. But even the wrong season doesn’t seem to slow Fletcher down. On June 3, she found four four-leaf clovers in the morning, and five more in the afternoon in the span of about five minutes.
Fletcher said she doesn’t do anything special to her soil — in fact, she avoids treating it because she doesn’t want to hurt the clover.
“I know I’ve got a yard full of clover, but I don’t mind,” she said. “It gives me something to do.”
Besides helping to occupy her time, Fletcher said collecting clovers helps her appreciate nature, especially when everything is just starting to grow back after a long winter.
“When you get out and walk around and find these fresh new flowers popping through the ground and you start seeing clovers coming through the ground, it’s like a new beginning,” she said. “It gives you hope for the coming year.”
As for the legend of four-leaf clovers bringing luck, Fletcher said she doesn’t think there’s much to it.
“I’m able to pay my debts and have a few dollars left over each month. I guess I’m lucky in a lot of ways,” she said. “By the help and grace of God, I’ve done pretty good by myself. I don’t know if the clovers has anything to do with it. I certainly don’t think it’s all clover luck.”
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