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 (see legume), 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.
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