Sexual Differences in Plants
1617 Today is the anniversary of the death of the 17th-century Italian botanist Prospero Alpini. Alpini introduced coffee and bananas to Europe. Alpini was also the first person to make observations about sexual differences in plants. The male and female flowers of the date palm, for instance, are borne on separate plants. This knowledge allowed Alpini to become the first person to fertilize the female flowers of the date palms artificially. Date palms were popular garden plants in Roman gardens. The fruit is very useful and is the basis for syrup, alcohol, vinegar, and liquor.
The genus "Alpinia", belonging to the order Zingiberaceae (Ginger Family), is named for Alpini. Alpinia is also known as the ginger lily. Ginger lilies are perennials and the blooms have a gardenia fragrance. Ginger lilies are a wonderful cut flower.