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.
In Ovid's Metamorphoses, the nymph Lotis was the beautiful daughter of Neptune, the god of water and the sea. In order to flee the violent attention of Priapus, she invoked the assistance of the gods, who answered her prayers by turning her into a lotus tree.
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)
- Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, page 526, by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer
- John Marius Wilson, The rural cyclopedia: or a general dictionary of agriculture, and ..., Volume 2
- Elizabeth Washington Wirt, Flora's dictionary
- Richard Folkard, Plant lore, legends, and lyrics