ECHO PARK — The Lotus Festival returns to Echo Park Lake next month after a three-year absence, with colorful posters heralding the weekend-long celebration of Asian cultures and, of course, the lake’s historic and revitalized lotus bed. There is one problem, however. The flower featured on the 2014 Lotus Festival poster is that of a water lily – not a lotus. “Oopsie,” said neighborhood flora-and-fauna expert Michael O”Brien of the flower faux pas.
No word on how the water lily bumped the lotus off the festival poster. But one of the festival organizers, Leonardo Pandac, confirmed that the poster features “a lily not a lotus flower.”
Has the lily become the new flower power of Echo Park Lake? The lotus had bloomed in the northwest corner of Echo Park Lake for decades, becoming a symbol for the neighborhood and serving as the focus of the annual festival. The lotus bed died mysteriously several years ago but was replanted when the lake reopened in 2013 after a major clean up.
But the lotus are no longer the only flowering star attraction floating on Echo Park Lake. When the lake was rebuilt, large clusters of water lilies were planted in the new wetlands created as part of the renovation of the lake. The blossoms of the water lilies are smaller than the pom-pom like flowers of the lotus but the lilies bloom earlier and longer than the lotus, which peak in the heat of summer. The lilies also bloom in a variety of shades – ranging from pink to purple – while the lotus produce a rather refined but relatively sedate cream-and-pink flower.
Randy McDonald, the aquatic plant expert who supplied the lotus and lilies that now bloom in Echo Park Lake, explains the difference between the two plants:
The lotus belong to genus that lotus belong to is Nelumbo. Water lilies belong to the genus Nymphaea. Generally speaking, water lily leaves float on the surface and are green to green and brown mottled. Lotus leaves are held high above the water and are blue green when they are properly fertilized.
Despite their differences, the typical person often confuses one plant for the other. “Every time I see an article on the lotus, there is a water lily picture there instead of a lotus picture,” McDonald said via email. “This even happened on Channel 7 news!”
So, will the lotus now become the wall flower of Echo Park Lake? What do you prefer? The lily or the lotus?