The role of fire in shaping plant traits in crown fire ecosystems is well understood, but little attention has been given to surface fire ecosystems. We studied the effect of fire-related cues (heat shock and smoke) on the germination and early seedling growth of 21 herbaceous species in Central Anatolian steppe, Turkey. We made an experiment including one smoke and five heat-shock treatments (60, 80, 100, 120 and 140 degrees C for 5 min) to test whether germination percentage, mean germination time, seedling growth, and seedling vigor enhance or reduce in the treatments in comparison to the controls. Seeds of all species were able to tolerate low heat shocks, but moderate and high heat shocks had a negative impact on germination and seedling growth. In Stachys byzantina, germination was stimulated by the smoke treatment. Smoke and low heat shocks positively affected the seedling vigor index of six species. The results suggest that the seeds of plant species in Central Anatolian steppes are resistant to low-intensity surface fires, but not high-intensity crown fires and that some species take advantage from surface fires. Our results contribute to understanding the role of fire in temperate grassland ecosystems. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.