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Any of several different plants whose flowers have been given symbolic meaning by many cultures. The lotus of the Greeks is Ziziphus lotus (family Rhamnaceae), a shrub native to southern Europe; wine made from its fruit was thought to produce contentment and forgetfulness. The Egyptian lotus is a white water lily (Nymphaea lotus). The sacred lotus of the Hindus is an aquatic plant (Nelumbo nucifera) with white or delicate pink flowers; the lotus of eastern North America is Nelumbo pentapetala, a similar plant with yellow blossoms. Lotus is also a genus of the pea family (seelegume), containing about 100 species found in temperate regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America; the 20 or more species in North America are grazed by animals. The lotus is a common ornament in architecture, and since ancient times it has symbolized fertility, purity, sexuality, birth, and rebirth of the dead.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lotus, visit Britannica.com.