The effect of high irradiance (HI) during desiccation and subsequent rehydration of the homoiochlorophyllous desiccation-tolerant shade plant Haberlea rhodopensis was investigated. Plants were irradiated with a high quantum fluence rate (HI; 350 μmol m−2 s−1 compared to ca. 30 μmol m−2 s−1 at the natural rock habitat below trees) and subjected either to fast desiccation (tufts dehydrated with naturally occurring thin soil layers) or slow desiccation (tufts planted in pots in peat-soil dehydrated by withholding irrigation). Leaf water content was 5 % of the control after 4 d of fast and 19 d of slow desiccation. Haberlea was very sensitive to HI under all conditions. After 19 d at HI, even in well-watered plants there was a strong reduction of rates of net photosynthesis and transpiration, contents of chlorophyll (Chl) and carotenoids, as well as photosystem 2 activity (detected by the Chl fluorescence ratio RFd). Simultaneously, the blue/red and green/red fluorescence ratios increased considerably suggesting increased synthesis of polyphenolic compounds. Desiccation of plants in HI induced irreversible changes in the photosynthetic apparatus and leaves did not recover after rehydration regardless of fast or slow desiccation. Only young leaves survived desiccation.