Karrikins are a family of compounds generated via the incomplete combustion of plant matter. Since their discovery as seed germination stimulants in 2004, a great deal has been learned about the chemistry and the biological mode of action of karrikins. Much interest and progress have stemmed from the structural similarity of karrikins to that of strigolactones - the shoot branching hormone. This review will provide a historical account of some of the more significant discoveries in this area of plant biology. It will discuss how the study of these abiotic signalling molecules, combined with advances in our understanding of strigolactones, has led us towards the discovery of new mechanisms that regulate plant growth and development.