This type of vegetation has hard (sclero), leathery, evergreen leaves (phyllus) with short spaces between. It has adapted to avoid moisture loss in dry habitats with unreliable rainfall. It is common in regions with a Mediterranean climate - hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.

Sclerophyllous plants occur in all parts of the world but are most typical in shrubby thickets. In Australia they grow in forests, savannas and heathlands. Savannas are very common here. They are mostly grasses with a mix of Eucalypts and Acacias.

Common plants include the Proteaceae (Grevilleas, Banksias and Hakeas), Tea-Trees, Acacias, Boronias, and the Eucalypts. Eucalypts and Melaleucas have glands in their leaves that produce an oil which is unpalatable to herbivores. Because they are oily they are quite flammable, so they have adapted to resprout after bushfire. Many Acacia species have an adaptation in which the leaves have no fleshy blade, but are phyllodes comprised entirely of the leaf stem.

These plants are also adapted for the low level of phosphorus in the Australian soil. Many Australian native plants cannot use high levels of phosphorus and will die if over fertilised. Lignin allows the plants to grow even when there isn't enough phosphorus for new cell growth.