Perennial herbs or low shrubs, glabrous or pubescent. Leaves small, simple, entire, fleshy or shortly petiolate. Flowers solitary, rarely paired, in axils, bisexual or rarely unisexual. Perianth cup-shaped, shortly 3–5-lobed, enlarging in fruit; stamens 3–5; stigmas 2 or 3. Fruiting perianth enveloping utricle as a tube, more or less woody, often hollowed at base; radicular slit or tubercle present opposite radicle; spines 2–6, rarely absent or occasionally as many as 9; perianth lobes and upper part of tube sometimes exserted above spines (then referred to as the limb); pericarp thin; seed horizontal to erect, testa membranous.
Endemic mainland Australian genus of 66 species, mainly in semi-arid areas.
Species of Sclerolaena commonly hybridize with other members of the genus or with species from closely related genera and these may be recognized in having deformed or variable, usually sterile fruits. Even in non-hybrid plants, some fruiting perianths may be produced without the full number of spines, so inspection of several fruits should be made before commencing to identify a specimen.