Abstract The germinable soil seed bank of a tropical eucalypt savanna of north-eastern Australia was found to be dominated by grasses and forbs, with seed bank density ranging from 58 to 792 seeds per square metre, from a total of 53 species. Late dry season fires and the fire-related cues, heat shock and smoke, broke the seed dormancy of a range of tropical savanna species. Heat shock promoted the germination of the species groups natives, exotics, subshrubs, ephemeral and twining perennial forbs, and the common species Indigofera hirsuta, Pycnospora lutescens and Triumfetta rhomboidea. Exposure to smoke at ambient temperature promoted germination from the soil seed bank of the species groups combined natives, upright perennial forbs and grasses, as well as the common grasses Digitaria breviglumis and Heteropogon triticeus. The germinable soil seed bank varied seasonally, increasing from the mid wet season (February) and early dry season (May) to a maximum in the late dry season (October). The effect of recent fire history on soil seed bank dynamics was limited to the immediate release of some seed from dormancy; a reduction in seed densities of subshrubs and monocots, other than grasses, in recently burnt savanna; and enhanced seed density of the ephemeral I. hirsuta in the year following fire. The seed banks of most savanna species were replenished in the year following burning.