Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:
Echo Park, the LA neighborhood hard by downtown, boasts the largest lotus stand in the western United States.
The lake where the lotuses live began as a man-made reservoir back in 1868. A surrounding park and boathouse were completed by 1895. By 1907, more green space had been added by extending the park south to Temple and north to Bellevue.
The lotuses bloom each summer, usually peaking in early July.
And they’re surrounded by mystery, intrigue, and crime.
For starters, nobody really knows where the original flowers came from. One legend, never proven, holds that Angelus Temple missionaries, followers of Aimee Semple McPherson, brought the seeds back from China.
An 1889 LA Times article mentions that a J.C. Harvey planned to donate some Egyptian lotuses from the Nile to area parks, but the Echo Park flowers are not Egyptian lotuses, nor are they water lilies.
Instead, says landscape architect and certified arborist Michael O’Brien, “Nelumbo nucifera is native to South Asia to Australia and is grown in tropical climates around the world. As to where these plants came from, the source is lost in the mists of time.”
Though the exact date is unknown, the lotuses by all accounts first appeared in the lake during the 1920s. At the time, water gardens had become au courant citywide. So had Egyptology, exotic locales, and a vague Eastern-philosophy aesthetic.
A 1929 LA Times photo caption reads, “Right now the beds of lotus lilies in Echo Park, Los Angeles, are coming into perfection. These are the sacred lilies of India, symbols of immortality, and to the Hindu mind the most perfect of all flowers.”
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