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The species composition and soil-site characteristics of three prairies from the Missouri Coteau of southeastern South Dakota were used 1) to determine the major environmental variables responsible for vegetational patterning and 2) to describe the plant communities on these prairies. Vascular plant species composition was significantly correlated (p < 0.01) with a suite of variables that strongly influence available soil moisture, and with soil pH and conductivity. Cluster analysis yielded five groups at the 38% similarity level. From the lowest (in elevation) and most mesic to the highest and most xeric, the five groups (communities) are: wet meadows with prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata Link) and sedge (Carex praegracilis W Boott.) as the most important species; meadows with prairie cordgrass and switch grass (Panicum virgatum L.); swales with Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman); slopes with Kentucky bluegrass, sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula [Michx.j Torr.), and needleleaf sedge (Carex eleocharis Bailey); and crests with Kentucky bluegrass and needleleaf sedge.