Tolerance to drought remains poorly described for Jatropha curcas accessions from different geographical and climatic origins. To address this issue we studied the response of two J. curcas accessions, one from Indonesia (wet tropical climate) and the other from Cape Verde islands (semi-arid climate). Potted seedlings (with 71 days) of both accessions were subjected to continuous well watered conditions (control) or to a drought stress period followed by re-watering. To mimic natural conditions in which drought stress develops gradually, stress was imposed progressively by reducing irrigation (10% reduction every 2 days, on a weight base), for a period of 28 days, until a field capacity of 15% (maximum stress) was achieved, followed by one week under well-watered conditions. We measured soil and plant water status, growth and biomass partitioning, leaf morphology, leaf gas exchange and chlorophyll a fluorescence. Both accessions maintained high leaf relative water content (70-80%) even at maximum stress. Net photosynthesis (A(n)) was not affected by mild to moderate stress but it abruptly dropped at severe stress. This was due to reduced stomatal conductance, which showed earlier decline than A(n). Plant growth (stem elongation, leaf emergence and total leaf area) was reduced, minimizing water loss, but no significant differences were found between accessions. Drought stress did not reduce chlorophyll contents but led to reduced chlorophyll a/b. Both accessions showed fast recovery of both stomatal and photochemical parameters suggesting a good tolerance to water stress. Both J. curcas accessions showed a-dehydration-avoidant behaviour, presenting a typical water saving strategy due to strict stomatal regulation, regardless of their provenance. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.