Little is known about the effect of vapour pressure deficit (VPD) on the growth of trees. Rainforest trees of eastern Australia provide an opportunity to investigate responses to VPD in species that occur in high precipitation areas but have contrasting dry seasons-summer in the temperate south and winter in the tropical north. Growth responses to VPD were measured in eight species of Australian rainforest trees from different latitudes to investigate possible differences in their response to atmospheric drought. Previous work on these species found that the tropical species have large reductions in gas exchange with increasing VPD whereas the temperate species were mainly unresponsive to increasing VPD. Plants were grown in glasshouses for a year under either low VPD or ambient conditions of a temperate climate. All species had non-significant increases in growth rates (1-9 ) of plants grown under low VPD compared with plants grown under ambient VPD. In addition, growing the species under low VPD had no effect on allocation of biomass (leaf area ratio, leaf weight ratio and root/shoot ratio). Therefore, the high sensitivity of gas exchange to increasing VPD found in the tropical rainforest trees did not have a significant, long-term effect on growth under high VPD. (c) 2006 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.