Physiological and vegetative performances of three prairie grasses were investigated to assess their adaptation to soil conditions at two strip mine sites and a nearby railroad prairie. Additionally, rhizomes of the species were transplanted to a pot experiment and grown in both field soil and greenhouse potting medium to investigate the extent to which plants are limited under field conditions. Field measurements of photosynthetic rate and stomatal conductance to water vapor were made on the three species monthly from May to late August. Gas exchange measurements on potted plants were made biweekly from early May to mid-July. In September, vegetative and flowering characteristics were measured on both field and potted plants. Field gas exchange rates were highest at one of the mines. Sorghastrum nutans had the highest rates at the mine sites, whereas Panicum virgatum had the highest rates at the prairie site. Potted plants from the prairie site usually exhibited the highest gas exchange rates, and Sorghastrum nutans had higher rates than Panicum virgatum and Andropogon gerardii. Potted plants in field soil generally had higher gas-exchange rates than plants growing in greenhouse potting medium, and potted plants had higher gas-exchange rates than field-grown plants. Vegetative and reproductive performance of field plants was highest at one of the mine sites. Potted plants in greenhouse medium had up to twice the vegetative and reproductive output as potted plants in field soil or plants growing in the field. The physiological and vegetative performance of these species indicates that they are well adapted to the soil conditions at these strip mine sites, and that they are a viable alternative to nonnative plantings for restoration.