Planting lotus in Echo Park Lake

New lotus being planted in late June in the nearly barren Echo Park Lake lotus bed.

Echo Park - Visitors to this weekend's 39th Annual Lotus Festival will find rows of food and craft booths, numerous bands and performers and dragon boat races across Echo Park Lake. But what will be harder to find are the festival's namesake lotus.

The lake's iconic lotus have been struggling this year. By the time July comes around, the northwest corner of the lake is usually filled with large, pink and cream-colored lotus blossoms rising above floppy green leaves that spread across the water.  This year, most of the lotus bed is dormant, with a relatively few plants emerging on the edges. 

In fact, things are so bad that a crew of workers was spotted late last month planting small lotus plants into the empty part of the bed and surrounding the aquatic plants with some fencing.

What's going on?

 Deanne A. Dedmon, a principal recreation supervisor with the Department of Recreation and Parks, said the department's maintenance staff offered numerous reasons why most of the lotus plants are no-shows this year. These include water conditions (temperature, turbidity, pH), lack of soil nutrients, cool weather, birds uprooting/eating plants, fish and other aquatic species disturbing sediment and roots.  But they really couldn't pin down a reason.

"Some or all of these may be playing a part this year," said the staff in a statement. 

Echo Park Lake Lotus Bed

The middle of the Echo Park Lake lotus bed (pictured in mid June) was looking pretty bare compared to years past.

"I am a little saddened that this year's lotus are blooming a little slower this year," said Dedmon.  "But [I'm] looking forward to a very exciting 39th Lotus Festival featuring Thailand!"

It's not the first time the lotus have either died off or had a hard time growing after going dormant over the winter.  Aquatic experts and parks staff have never been able to figure out the problem.

Michael O'Brien, a landscape architect and an unofficial expert on neighborhood flora, said the lotus might need more natural nutrients. He said that maintenance crews in the past have historically cleared out the old and dead lotus, which would otherwise sink to the bottom of the lotus bed, decompose, and fertilize the soil.

"Lotuses are gross feeders, and need lotsa nutrients," said O'Brien. Recreation & Parks "should try just letting the dead lotuses alone."

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