Was the Apostle of Ireland an Accidental Arborist?


Five Green Facts and Fables for St. Patrick’s Day

1.       According to ancient legends, St. Patrick was an early – and accidental – arborist. He is said to have carried a walking stick made with wood from an ash tree. As he traveled, Patrick would often evangelize and would start by driving his walking stick into the ground. During one such occasion, he preached for so long that his stick is alleged to have turned into a living tree at a place now known as Aspatria, meaning the Ash of Patrick.

2.       St. Patrick is widely purported to have rid Ireland of snakes by driving them out to sea. But Patrick harmed not a single snake – because there weren’t any. Thanks to its geographic location and glacial history, Ireland is one of five major landmasses with no native snakes (the others are Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland and New Zealand). As St. Patrick preached Christianity, the only snakes he confronted were symbolic, as serpents in church lore regularly represent Satan.

3.       Folklore states that leprechauns hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Well, even if that is true, everything else you thought you knew about rainbows is wrong. Scientists at the National Meteorological Research Center in France recently revealed that rainbows don’t always contain the seven classic rainbow colors. Nor is the strength of a rainbow entirely related to the size of water droplets in the air. In fact, experts now claim there are 12 different types of rainbows.

4.       Shamrocks are not only prevalent across Ireland, they thrive around the world – and the world thrives in large part because of shamrocks. A type of clover, shamrocks draw nitrogen from the air and deposit it in their root nodules. That nitrogen, a component of chlorophyll and essential for photosynthesis, becomes available to other plants when the host plant dies, accelerating seed and fruit production and improving the quality of leaf and forage crops.

5.       Dying the Chicago River green to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day has environmental origins. More than 50 years ago, the local plumbers union began pouring green dye into the river to determine the source of illegal waste discharges. When the chairman of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade learned of the practice, he convinced Mayor Daley to let him color the river for March 17th. But the dye itself was a pollutant, and in 1966 officials switched to an environmentally-safe, vegetable-based dye.

As you go “green” for St. Patrick’s Day, please stay that way and help SCA forge a healthier and more sustainable planet.

Student Conservation Association