In the current study, a field experiment was conducted to examine effects of litter on seedling emergence and early growth of four dominant weed species from the early successional stages of old field ecosystem and two perennial grassland species in late successional stages. Our results showed that increased litter cover decreased soil temperature and temperature variability over time and improved soil moisture status. Surface soil electrical conductivity increased as litter increased. The increased litter delayed seedling emergence time and rate. The emergence percentage of seedlings and establishment success rate firstly increased then decreased as litter cover increased. When litter biomass was below 600 g m-2, litter increased seedlings emergence and establishment success in all species. With litter increasing, the basal diameter of seedling decreased, but seedling height increased. Increasing amounts of litter tended to increase seedling dry weight and stem leaf ratio. Different species responded differently to the increase of litter. Puccinellia tenuiflora and Chloris virgata will acquire more emergence benefits under high litter amount. It is predicted that Chloris virgata will dominate further in this natural succession old field ecosystem with litter accumulation. Artificial P. tenuiflora seeds addition may be required to accelerate old field succession toward matured grassland.