1. Plant survival following disturbance was modelled simply as the probability that at least one of n stems sprouts, each stem having an independent probability of sprouting, s. This first-order model with any stem on any plant in any species having probability s = 0.18 of sprouting after clipping (s = 0.09 after burning) explained nearly half of the deviance associated with species' mortality in a field experiment on 43 species from a range of growth forms. 2. Allowing species to take either a low or high per-stem sprouting probability (SSP) improved statistical explanation substantially. Fitting growth form SSP was less effective, showing that much of the apparent among-species variation in SSP was within growth forms. 3. Allowing each species to have a different SSP essentially provided a saturated model. The estimated species-specific probabilities were positively related to the depth from which sprouts could emerge after disturbance. Predicting species' bud depth from some simply measured morphological trait would be a considerable advance. Limited evidence suggested that sprout depth was associated with thick or dense leaves (low specific leaf area and leaf water content). 4. Depicting plants as a collection of independent stems with equal probability of sprouting appears a reasonable first-order model for whole-plant sprouting, despite being morphologically simplified.