Little is known about the differences in physiology between temperate and tropical trees. Australian rainforests extend from tropical climates in the north to temperate climates in the south over a span of 33° latitude. Therefore, they provide an opportunity to investigate differences in the physiology of temperate and tropical trees within the same vegetation type. This study investigated how the response of net photosynthesis to growth temperature differed between Australian temperate and tropical rainforest trees and how this correlated with differences in their climates. The temperate species showed their maximum rate of net photosynthesis at lower growth temperatures than the tropical species. However, the temperate species showed at least 80% of maximum net photosynthesis over a 12–16°C span of growth temperature, compared with a span of 9–11°C shown by the tropical species. The tropical species showed both larger reductions in maximum net photosynthesis at low growth temperatures and larger reductions in the optimum instantaneous temperature for net photosynthesis with decreasing growth temperature than the temperate species. The ability of the temperate species to maintain maximum net photosynthesis over a greater span of growth temperatures than the tropical species is consistent with the greater seasonal and day-to-day variation in temperature of the temperate climate compared with the tropical climate.