Under Greek Influence
In Egypt, two native species of lotus grew, the white lotus (Nymphaea lotus) and the blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea). A third type, the pink lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) was introduced into Egypt from Persia during the Late period. All three species were depicted in Egyptian art, with the pink lotus featured more in work of the Greeks under the reign of the Ptolemies.
The lotus tree (Greek: λωτός, lōtós) is a plant that occurs in two stories from Greek mythology. In Homer's Odyssey, the lotus tree bore a fruit that caused a pleasant drowsiness and was the only food of an island people called the Lotophagi or Lotus-eaters. When they ate of the lotus tree they would forget their friends and homes and would lose their desire to return to their native land in favor of living in idleness. Botanical candidates for the lotus tree include the date-plum (Diospyros lotus), which is a sub-evergreen tree native to Africa that grows to about 25 feet bearing yellowish green flowers, as well as Ziziphus lotus, a plant with an edible fruit closely related to the jujube family native to North Africa and the islands in the Gulf of Gabes, such as Jerba.
Man Eating Lotus Trees of Nubia
Phil Robinson, writing in "Under the Punkah," (1881), related the tales of his "uncle's" travels throughout the world. He described a "man-eating tree" that was to be found in "Nubia." In the tale, Robinson's uncle describes the tree:
"This awful plant, that rears its splendid death-shade in the central solitude of a Nubian fern forest, sickens by its unwholesome humours all vegetation from its immediate vicinity, and feeds upon the wild beasts that, in the terror of the chase, or the heat of noon, seek the thick shelter of its boughs ; upon the birds that, flitting across the open space, come within the charmed circle of its power, or innocently refresh themselves from the cups of its great waxen flowers ; upon even man himself when, an infrequent prey, the savage seeks its asylum in the storm, or turns from the harsh foot-wounding sword-grass of the glade, to pluck the wondrous fruit that hang plumb down among the wondrous foliage. And such fruit ! Glorious golden ovals, great honey drops, swelling by their own weight into pear-shaped translucencies. The foliage glistens with a strange dew, that all day long drips on to the ground below, nurturing a rank growth of grasses, which shoot up in places so high that their spikes of fierce blood-fed green show far up among the deep-tinted foliage of the terrible tree, and, like a jealous body-guard, keep concealed the fearful secret of the charnel-house within, and draw round the black roots of the murderous plant a decent screen of living green."The story continues in describing how the tree captured and ate one of the uncle's native companions, and how the uncle proceeded to shoot at the tree. When his ammunition was finally exhausted, the uncle continued his work using a knife to destroy the tree, as the tree fought back with its blood-sucking leaves, and entangling limbs.
In the Bible
The lotus tree is also mentioned in the Book of Job 40:21-22, verses which refer to a large creature referred to as "behemoth". The passage states: "He lies under the lotus trees, In a covert of reeds and marsh. The lotus trees cover him with their shade; The willows by the brook surround him." (NAB)