Both the California chaparral species, Emmenanthe penduliflora Benth. (Hydrophyllaceae), and a tobacco native to the Great Basin Desert of south-western Utah, Nicotiana attenuata Torr. ex Wats. (Solanaceae), germinate in response to component(s) of wood smoke. Nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2), in amounts produced by a fire, have been proposed to be germination signals for E. penduliflora. We examined the germination response of dormant seeds of E. penduliflora and N. attenuata to aqueous solutions of smoke adjusted to different pHs, and two NO donors [sodium nitroprusside (SNP) and S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP)]. The smoke solutions, at pH 4 or 5, induced the maximum germination response. Aqueous solutions of SNP and SNAP, releasing NOx as high as 42 μM, had no effect on germination. Additionally, NO2– could not be detected in aqueous smoke extracts derived from combusted cellulose or wood. Therefore, unidentified cellulose combustion factors, rather than NOx, are likely to be the ecologically relevant germination signals.