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No Luck For Shamrocks

The luck of the Irish is running out in Australia as sniffer dogs are brought out and X-ray machines cranked up in a crackdown on illegal imports of shamrocks for St Patrick's Day.

More than 60 four-leaf clovers had already been seized during stepped-up inspections of packages from Ireland at mail sorting centers, a spokeswoman for the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service said on Wednesday.

“We will obviously be receiving more,” she said.

Since earliest times, the Irish have considered the shamrock - originally a white clover - a symbol of good luck or a charm against evil. St Patrick's Day on March 17 is celebrated by Irish communities around the world with the “wearin' o' the green.”

But Australia's quarantine service says some types of shamrock are just noxious weeds that could threaten the vast island continent's unique ecosystem or bring in plant diseases.

Some of the shamrocks seized in recent days included bits of soil that could introduce foot and mouth disease into Australia, potentially ruining its billion-dollar cattle industry, said Rob Angus, manager of the plant quarantine station in Sydney.

“I've been with the service for 20 years and you see them (shamrocks) every year,” Angus told Reuters. “You understand why...but they should try and find something that expresses it in a different way.”

Seized shamrocks are destroyed, and brochures sent to their intended recipients telling them why their good luck charm never made it.