Seed mass is an important plant functional trait linked to germination. For instance, higher-mass seeds often display greater germination compared to lower-mass seeds when exposed to non-stressful conditions. Yet, knowledge pertaining to germination dynamics for different mass-based seed fractions following exposure to abiotic stress is lacking. Here, we assess the germination response of relatively fresh, mass-separated Rudbeckia mollis (Asteraceae) seeds to various simulated seasonal temperatures, supra-optimal temperatures and increasing ageing stress duration. Air density separation yielded three mass-based classes, called light (393 ± 35 μg), intermediate (423 ± 29 μg) and heavy (474 ± 38 μg). Water uptake kinetics indicated that imbibition (0–6 h) and germination lag (6–24 h) were independent of seed mass. Similarly, germination and viability loss of fresh seeds following exposure to seasonal and supra-optimal constant temperatures were independent of mass. However, seed mass influenced germination following increasing ageing stress, with light seeds germinating to a significantly greater extent than intermediate or heavy seeds. For example, final germination per cent in light-class seeds was about 1.7 times greater than intermediate or heavy seeds after 20 d of saturated salt accelerated ageing (SSAA). Seeds stored for 1 year in the laboratory displayed mass-dependent germination patterns similar to seeds following SSAA. Mass-independent germination responses may be a strategy to maintain an annual life history in otherwise difficult environments when R. mollis seeds are relatively fresh. However, differences in germination response between aged and unaged seeds suggest that mass-dependent viability loss may occur in R. mollis.