Our understanding of the mechanisms that maintain forest diversity under changing climate can benefit from knowledge about traits that are closely linked to fitness. We tested whether the link between traits and seed number and seed size is consistent with two hypotheses, termed the leaf economics spectrum and the plant size syndrome, or whether reproduction represents an independent dimension related to a seed size–seed number trade-off. We gathered 12 million observations of the number of seeds produced in 784 tree species. We estimated the number of seeds produced by individual trees and scaled it up to the species level. Next, we used principal components analysis and generalized joint attribute modelling (GJAM) to map seed number and size on the tree traits spectrum. Incorporating seed size and number into trait analysis while controlling for environment and phylogeny with GJAM exposes relationships in trees that might otherwise remain hidden. Production of the large total biomass of seeds, defined as the product of seed number and seed size; hereafter, species seed productivity (SSP) in Qiu et al., 2022 is associated with high leaf area, low foliar nitrogen, low specific leaf area (SLA) and dense wood. Production of high seed numbers is associated with small seeds produced by nutrient-demanding species with softwood, small leaves and high SLA.