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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 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.

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