I Both fire regimes and the conditions under which fires occur vary widely. Abiotic conditions (such as climate) in combination with fire season, frequency and intensity could influence vegetation responses to fire. A variety of adaptations facilitate post-fire recruitment in mediterranean climate ecosystems, but responses of other communities are less well known. We evaluated the importance of climate by comparing sites with mediterranean and subtropical climates. 2 We used paired burned and mature sites in chamise chaparral, mixed chaparral and coastal sage scrub (California), and rosemary scrub, sand pine scrub and sand-hill (Florida), to test whether (i) patterns of pre-fire and post-fire seedling recruitment are more similar between communities within a region than between regions, and (ii) post-fire stimulation of seedling establishment is greater in regions with marked fire-induced contrasts in abiotic site characteristics. 3 Post-fire seedling densities were more similar among sites within climatic regions than between regions. Both seedling densities and proportions of species represented by seedlings after fires were generally higher in California. 4 The only site characteristic showing a pre-fire-post-fire contrast was percentage open canopy, and the effect was greater in California than in Florida. Soil properties were unaffected by fire. 5 Mediterranean climate ecosystems in other regions have nutrient-poor soils similar to our subtropical Florida sites, but show post-fire seedling recruitment patterns more similar to the nutrient-rich sites in California. Climate therefore appears to play a more major role than soil characteristics.