© 2016 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.Drought is a major factor limiting crop production worldwide. Barley is a well-adapted cereal that is largely grown on dry marginal land where water and salinity are the most prevalent environmental stresses. This study was carried out to investigate the effects of drought stress and subsequent recovery on growth, photosynthetic activity, water relations, osmotic adjustment (OA), and solute accumulation of wild (Hordeum maritimum) and cultivated barley (H. vulgare L.). In a pot experiment, 60 d old seedlings were subjected to drought stress for 0, 7, 14, 21, or 28 d, and then re-watered to recover for up to 21 d. Plants were harvested at the end of each of these drought/recovery treatments. Drought significantly reduced fresh and dry weights at the whole-plant level, photosynthetic activities, and solute and water potentials, while increasing leaf Na+ and K+ concentrations. The adverse effects of drought on growth were more marked in cultivated barley than in wild barley and the reverse was true for photosynthetic activities. During recovery, all wild barley seedlings completely recovered. For cultivated barley seedlings, rehydration had a beneficial effect on growth and photosynthesis, independent of treatment duration, but complete recovery did not occur. The reduction in leaf solute potential at full turgor in drought-stressed barley, relative to the control, suggests active OA which was more significant in wild barley than in cultivated barley. OA was mainly due to the accumulation of inorganic (K+ in cultivated barley and Na+ in wild barley) and organic (soluble sugars and proline) solutes. The results suggest that OA is an important component of the drought-stress adaptation mechanism in wild barley, but is not sufficient to contribute to drought tolerance in cultivated barley. In the latter species, the results show that even short periods (as little as 7 d) of water deficit stress had considerable long-term effects on plant growth.