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Stolen Lotus Clippings From Echo Park Lake Turn Into Cash Crop For Reseda Horticulturist

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RESEDA (CBSLA.com) — A little bit of larceny has paid off for a gardener with a green thumb.

When horticulturist Randy McDonald spotted the Asian sacred lotus at Echo Park Lake in 2005, he broke city rules after he sawed off one of the plants and took it back to his Reseda greenhouse.

“I’m thinking this is the lotus I’ve been looking for. I was excited. If I could just get one piece, I was home free,” he said.

With McDonald’s breeding know-how, the lotuses flourished in his backyard.

“I had 13 pots after two months full of these things,” he said.

The lotuses in Echo Park Lake, however, slowly died off by 2008.

“The lotus must’ve been cut prematurely and drowned,” said McDonald.

The city eventually closed the park and drained the lake. McDonald said as renovations began to revitalize the landmark, he got a call from city planners.

“(They said), ‘I understand you have some of the Asian sacred lotus that historically were in the lake.’ They said, ‘What can we do to get these lotuses?’ he said.

The plant breeder told KCAL9’s Rachel Kim that he convinced planners to buy his lotuses since they were off-shoots of the original. He sold 378 of them for $30,000.

Asked if it was fair for him to make money from something he stole from the city, McDonald said, “I didn’t rape the city with the prices, you know? I gave them a really good price for the lotus. If you’re able to make everyone happy and save an endangered species, which it was actually endangered, then there has to be some kind of reward for something like that.”

Although McDonald said he felt bad about his theft, he believes he gave back much more.

“I hope everyone enjoys what we’ve done out there for years to come,” he said.

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