Understanding tropical succession requires insight into propagule availability, which constrains possible woody plant recruitment, yet seed rain composition in multiple post-agricultural sites has seldom been examined. We monitored seed rain for 60 wk in five abandoned pastures in southern Costa Rica, collecting a total of 1 140 688 seeds of 165 morphospecies. Most seeds (80.1%) arrived during the wet season. Species richness was highest in the wet season and greater in forest than in pasture. Seed rain density was greatest at the forest/pasture edge and decreased drastically just a few metres into pastures. In and near the forest, animal-dispersed seeds were more abundant than seeds dispersed by other means, while wind-dispersed taxa increased in relative importance at greater distances from the forest. Total seed input to pastures did not reflect size of adjacent forest fragments, although seed rain density varied more than threefold among sites. Among-site variation in density of regenerating woody seedlings was roughly proportional to among-site variation in seed rain. Morphospecies composition differed significantly among sites. Also, seed rain and woody plant colonists were rather dissimilar in composition, suggesting that while propagule availability is necessary for early woody plant establishment, it is a poor predictor of successional trajectory.