Cultivation of annual crops in the initial stage of reforestation has been commonly practiced in the tropics. In recent decades, however, cultivation of such areas has been discontinued, resulting in widespread abandoned settlements. In this article we used a former forest village settlement in Kenya, which had been cleared, cultivated and then abandoned, to study how natural vegetation recovers after such disturbances. Species richness, abundance, and composition of tree seedlings, saplings, adult trees, shrubs, and herbs were recorded in different zones, from a heavily degraded zone in the center of the settlement, through less disturbed transition zones (TZs), and in the surrounding secondary forest (SF). Species richness and abundance of tree seedlings, saplings, and adult trees increased gradually from the heavily degraded zone to the SF, whereas shrub and herb richness were the same for TZs and SF and abundance was lowest in the SF. Total species richness was highest in the SF. Some pioneer tree species were highly associated with the TZs, whereas sub-canopy tree species were associated with the SF. A group of tree species were not particularly associated with any of the four zones. Thus, these species might have good potential as restoration species. The results of our study contribute to the knowledge of natural regeneration in general, and of individual species characterizing the different stages of recovery of abandoned settlements in particular. Such information is urgently needed in designing ecologically sound management strategies for restoring abandoned forest settlements in tropical areas.