Etymology From the Greek word Scleros meaning hard or cruel and is a reference to the hooked spines which attach firmly to whatever comes into contact with them.
As if often the case with genera that receive a lot of attention from both botanists and enthusiasts, a battle of "lumping" and "splitting" ensues. In the case of Sclerocactus, many strongly believe that plants included in this genus by some should be broken out into at least 4 other names: Ancistrocactus, Echinomastus, Glandulicactus, and Toumeya. Determining which is "correct", depends largely on how one defines the term "genus". Since botanical taxonomy is plagued with loose and ever-shifting parameters for this term, the name debate will not be resolved anytime soon.
Plants in this group are native to the Southern United States and Northern Mexico. Here they grow in often very-restricted populations. Where they experience a surprising range of climate conditions. However, despite the harsh environment where these plants seem to thrive, they are notoriously difficult to grow in cultivation. Most people who do succeed in keeping these species do so with a pure mineral substrate with no organic material.
The plants themselves are relatively small globes or cylinders usually with tuberculate ribs. Most have a dense cover of spines with a prominent hooked central spine. Flowers arise from the apex of the plant and point straight up. They are funnel-shaped and range widely in color from pink to yellow to greenish to white and even brown. Fruits are similar to that of Ferocactus, however the scales tend to have small tufts of wool in the axils; dehiscent.