Introduction to Plant Physiology Hopkins, William G. 1999 ISBN 0-471-19281-3 (cloth US $97.95) 2nd Edition, 512 pp Wiley Publishers, 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158.
With the increase in use of the powerful tools of molecular biology, plant physiology has been a very active field in recent years. It is more important than ever that students who are interested in botany have a good grasp of this discipline. To this end, William Hopkins presents a text with a focus on the fundamental concepts of plant physiology.
The book consists of 23 chapters and is divided into four parts: Plants, Water, and Minerals; Plants, Energy and Carbon; Regulation of Plant Development; and Stress Physiology and Biotechnology. The text is well-written and is at the appropriate level for second year undergraduates and above. Many of the topics are presented within a historical perspective, which I find quite useful in upper level undergraduate courses.
The diagrams in this book are very effective and should provide a good learning aid to students. Many of the figures are directly from the scientific literature, but the author has redrawn some of them. For instance in the section on phototropism, the author replots a potentially confusing photon fluence-response curve into a figure easily understandable to the reader.
Each chapter concludes with a list of references cited. and additional suggestions for further reading (review articles and/or books). The author seems to make a point of including some current (to 1997) references in his list.
Since my area of research is plant gravitational biology, I took a closer look at this section (excuse my bias). The author did a good job in presenting the status of the field and in examining the controversies of the starch-statolith hypothesis. Quite nicely, the use of spaceflight research to answer fundamental questions in this area also is discussed. He included statements such as: "These provocative ideas will no doubt stimulate further interest and research into the mechanics of gravisensing and the initial stages in signal transduction." What a wonderful concept to give to students: that research in these areas is ongoing and that plant physiology is not a static collection of knowledge! In fact, the author does this throughout the book, and at many times indicates areas of active research and possible future directions.
Some brief comparisons to the other leading textbooks in plant physiology may be warranted. The longtime classic Plant Physiology by Salisbury and Ross is good but may be a bit dated (fourth edition, 1991) for many instructors' needs. The second edition (1998) of Plant Physiology by Taisei and Geiger also is very nice but is different from the book by Hopkins. Taisei and Geiger is about 800 pages and Hopkins is about 500 pages long. Thus, the former book is more detailed and has a much longer list of references while the latter takes more of a fundamentals-of-plant-physiology approach. Since the topics in both are fairly comparable, Hopkins might be better for a sophomore-level course while Taisei and Seigneur may be more suitable for an advanced undergraduate/graduate class. As always, the question comes down to approach of the instructor and the nature of the course.
In summary, Introduction to Plant Physiology by Hopkins is a good-quality, well-illustrated, up-to-date treatment of the field. I enjoyed reading it and am sure students will find it to be a useful textbook.
- John Z. Kiss, Botany Dept., Miami Univ., Oxford OH 45056