Fire severity is predicted to increase in boreal regions due to global warming. We hypothesized that these extreme events will alter regeneration patterns of black spruce (Picea mariana). To test this hypothesis, we monitored seed dispersal and seedling emergence, survival and growth for 6 years from 2005 to 2010 after the 2004 wildfire on Poker Flat, interior Alaska, using 96 1 x 1 m plots. A total of 1,300 seedlings of black spruce and three broad-leaved deciduous trees (Populus tremuloides, Betula papyrifera, and Salix spp.) were recorded. Black spruce seedlings colonized burned and unburned ground surfaces for the first 2 years after the wildfire and established on any topographical surface, while the broad-leaved trees emerged less in areas of lower elevation, slope gradient and canopy openness and only on burned surfaces. Vascular plant cover on the ground floor increased the seedling establishment of black spruce and broad-leaved trees, most likely because of seed-trap effects. Black spruce grew faster on burned surface than on unburned surfaces. However, broad-leaved trees grew faster than black spruce on burned surfaces. Black spruce regenerates even after severe wildfire when the microtopography restricts the colonization of broad-leaved trees. The regeneration trajectories are determined soon after wildfire by a combination of seed limitation for black spruce and habitat preference for broad-leaved trees. © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014. Abstract reproduced by permission.