The juice of the black lotus is a deadly poison, and the scent of its blossoms induces a deep, comatose (but temporary) slumber haunted by vivid, fantastical dreams. Conan fell victim to the latter effect when he and Bêlit were exploring a ruined city on the Zarkheba River in the Black Kingdoms. By the time Conan regained consciousness, he was too late to save Bêlit from being slain by the Winged Ape.
The flower can also be made into a lethal greenish-yellow powder that is deadly to those who breathe it, whether human or animal. Taurus, the Prince of Thieves, used this powder to kill a pride of lions that guarded the Tower of the Elephant. Taurus boasted that the daring feat of obtaining the powder was enough to make him famous among the thieves of the world. He had stolen it out of a caravan bound for Stygia (from Khitai). It was in a cloth of gold bag that he removed from the coils of a giant serpent that guarded it, without waking the monster.
A variety of black lotus is grown and cultivated by the people of the city of Xuthal in the Southern Desert between Kush and the southern Black Kingdoms. Instead of death, the juice of the Xuthalan lotus has the same narcotic dream effect as the blossoms of other varieties. In these dreams the addicted Xuthalans spend most of their time, and their lives are without direction and purpose. They seldom finish anything they begin, but leave it half completed and sink back again into the slumber of the black lotus, their spirits roaming at will through strange dream realms.
The pollen of the black lotus, in the form of a shimmering black dust, is used by Stygian wizards to restore their necromantic energies after wielding magic, especially the powerful sorcerers of the Black Ring. This mystical restorative property is brought into effect by burning the pollen in a brazier and breathing the smoke to induce the dream slumber. Xaltotun, the resurrected Acheronian wizard, used the black lotus pollen for the same purpose.
The black lotus exhibits a rudimentary sentience, moving and swaying on its pliant green stem in the presence of human beings despite the absence of wind, as if attempting to entice them to inhale the exotic scent of its blossoms.
In the story "The Tower of the Elephant", Taurus tells Conan that the powder he used to kill the lions was made from the black lotus that grows in Khitai, and that the blossoms "strike dead any who smell of them". There is no other indication in the original stories that the scent causes death. It is always the sleep-inducing effect that is mentioned. If what Taurus said is true, then he may be referring to a Khitan variety of black lotus not mentioned elsewhere.
- Robert E. Howard, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian ("The Tower of the Elephant"), Del Rey (2003).
- Robert E. Howard, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian ("Queen of the Black Coast"), Del Rey (2003).
- Robert E. Howard, The Bloody Crown of Conan ("The Hour of the Dragon"), Del Rey (2003).
- Robert E. Howard, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian ("Xuthal of the Dusk"), Del Rey (2003).
- Robert E. Howard, The Conquering Sword of Conan ("Red Nails"), Del Rey (2005).