1. To test whether differences in response to drought can help to explain the differing distributions of Briza media and Koeleria macrantha, changes in their leaf growth and water relations during soil drying were measured. After droughting, plants were re-watered and recovery recorded. 2. Leaf growth of the two species showed a similar sensitivity to drought with respect to duration of soil drying and soil moisture content. 3. In both species tiller base relative water content (RWC) was maintained at similar levels to controls until soil moisture content had fallen to less than 9%. This may aid survival in habitats subject to periodic droughting by preventing damage to the meristems. 4. Briza media did not respond to re-watering. However, plants of K. macrantha re-grew after periods of over 20 days of drought, when tiller base RWCs had fallen as low as 13%. This ability to resurrect may explain the occurrence of K. macrantha in xeric calcicolous grasslands subject to episodes of severe droughting, from which B. media is absent.