Physiological responses of Agropyron desertorum and Pseudoroegneria spicata, two common cold desert perennial tussock grass species of the North American Great Basin, were evaluated during and after a period of imposed drought in a pot study. The timing and the pattern of response of leaf water potential (Ψ1), stomatal conductance (gs), and root growth were strikingly similar in both species during and after drought. The severity of stress influenced the magnitude of Ψ1 and gs, but had little effect on the timing of these responses. Although drought inhibited total root length in prestressed plants, within 4 days after relief of drought both species showed similar increases in root growth which exceeded those of the control. Despite similarities in their root growth responses to increased soil water availability, the two grasses differed in their capacity to restore N uptake following drought. By 14 days after rewatering, N uptake in the prestressed Agropyron had recovered to levels of control plants, although both root biomass and root lenght were much less than those of the controls. This is attributed to elevated root uptake kinetics. Restoration of N uptake by prestressed Pseudoregneria was much less effective during the same period.