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Echo Park's Lotus-less Lotus Fest

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The 31st annual Echo Park Lotus Festival is only two weeks away, but something--something central to the event--is missing: The Lotus.

The past few years have seen a disturbing and rapid decline in the lotus blooms and leaves that typically spring up in the lake and bathe the water's surface in beautiful pinks and whites. But it's not just a temporary stall in flowering--some believe that the lotus will not be back, and the Lotus Festival will be lotus-free, save for a smattering of sad, dying leaves, described in the LA Times as "sickly, yellowed pads floating in foul-smelling water." (LA Observed's Chicken Corner (an Echo Park-focused blog) found one lone leaf last month in the water; the Times' count as of this week is 12.)

The Times also points out the historic significance of the flowers and their strong ties to our city's eclectic history:

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The Echo Park lotus plants are believed to be direct descendants of plants imported from China in the 1920s by Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the domed Angelus Temple across the street from the park. The popular festival sponsored by the city of L.A.'s Department of Recreation and Parks celebrates the city's Asian heritage.

There are 13 possible reasons for the lotus' demise, one of which being the fact that over the past 20 years there has been no refurbishment of the beds--and no new lotuses have been planted since the 1920s, according to records studied by one person involved in the park. "The city is preparing for a $60-million overhaul of Echo Park and its lake, scheduled to begin in July 2010. The report, released this month, recommends "salvaging" what remains of the lotus tubers and storing them." With two years to wait until refurbishment of the whole park, locals, lotus fans, and folks affiliated with the park are focused on the upcoming Festival...you know, the Lotus Festival without any Lotus.

Photo of lotus blooms in Echo Park August 2007 by lewisha1990 via Flickr