Where does the shamrock go?

Mystery remains over fate of White House gift from Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives a gift of shamrock to US President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives a gift of shamrock to US President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Wed, Mar 20, 2013, 10:18

One of the great mysteries of the White House ’s St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony — at least on the Irish side of the Atlantic — is what happens to the shamrock after the Taoiseach passes the bowl to the US president.

The White House press office was coy about what was going to happen to the latest batch of shamrock handed over by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office yesterday.

Indeed, one suspects the national weed is not held in as high a regard across the world as it is in Ireland. (One photograph caption on the Reuters news write yesterday described the Taoiseach’s gift to the President as a bowl of clover).

This was the fifth batch of shamrock to be received by the US president in his years in the White House.

Notwithstanding rumours that the secret service destroys the shamrock after the White House ceremony, one comment by the President on St Patrick’s Day last year gave away the fate of the previous sprays of Irish shamrock.

“Some of you may have noticed we even brought cherry blossoms out early for our Irish and Northern Irish visitors, and we will be sure to plant these beautiful shamrocks right away,” said Mr Obama in March 2012.

The president’s wife, Michelle Obama, is a keen gardener and famously started a garden on the South Lawn of the White House, but a spokesman for the White House was unable to say where this year’s shamrock would end up.