Water-soluble organic compounds (WSOCs) were extracted from corn stalk biochar produced at increasing pyrolysis temperatures (350–650 °C) and from the corresponding vapors, collected as bio-oil. WSOCs were characterized by gas chromatography (semivolatile fraction), negative electron spray ionization high resolution mass spectrometry (hydrophilic fraction) and fluorescence spectroscopy. The pattern of semivolatile WSOCs in bio-oil was dominated by aromatic products from lignocellulose, while in biochar was featured by saturated carboxylic acids from hemi/cellulose and lipids with concentrations decreasing with decreasing H/C ratios. Hydrophilic species in poorly carbonized biochar resembled those in bio-oil, but the increasing charring intensity caused a marked reduction in the molecular complexity and degree of aromaticity. Differences in the fluorescence spectra were attributed to the predominance of fulvic acid-like structures in biochar and lignin-like moieties in bio-oil. The divergence between pyrolysis vapors and biochar in the distribution of WSOCs with increasing carbonization was explained by the hydrophobic carbonaceous matrix acting like a filter favoring the release into water of carboxylic and fulvic acid-like components. The formation of these structures was confirmed in biochar produced by pilot plant pyrolysis units. Biochar affected differently shoot and root length of cress seedlings in germination tests highlighting its complex role on plant growth.