There are literally hundreds of species of snakes that are green in color. Some are harmless or nonvenomous, while others are highly venomous. That’s why green snake identification in the wild is so crucial.
Green snakes with lethal venom include the African green mamba, palm pit viper, green parrot snakes, African bush viper, boomslangs, and two-striped forest pit vipers. The only U.S. venomous snakes that can have a greenish hue are cottonmouths and Mojave rattlesnakes.
Almost every serpentine family contains some green-colored snakes. Because of this, some green snakes have venom and others that are harmless to humans. We will look at the species of snakes from America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. You’ll find out how to identify green snakes.
Venomous Green Snakes in North America
The temperate climate of North America is home to many venomous snakes, some of which have a green appearance. The most common snakes include Mojave rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and palm pit vipers.
Mojave Green Rattlesnake (Crotalus Scutulatus)
The Mojave rattlesnake is native to the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico. This snake can be found in the deserts of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas.
In some areas, this snake is known as the “Mojave green rattlesnake” due to the olive-green tinge of its scales. In other areas, it can appear brown, sandy yellow or grey. It has a diamond-shaped pattern down its back and a segmented rattle on the end of its tail.
A bite from a Mojave rattlesnake is potentially life-threatening. Mojaves have the most potent venom of any rattlesnake, causing serious neurotoxic symptoms such as vision and respiratory problems. Deaths from Mojave bites are rare, but would be much more common without antivenin.
Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon Piscivorous)
The cottonmouth (water moccasin), is another type of pit viper. It is endemic to the U.S. and can be found in the southwestern states. Its range extends as far east as Texas and as far north as southern Illinois.
Cottonmouths are semi-aquatic, and commonly found around bodies of water. Like all snakes, they can bite underwater. Some cottonmouths are grey, brown or black, whereas some have an olive-green hue. Juveniles are banded, but this pattern fades when adults.
A bite from a cottonmouth isn’t as dangerous as a rattlesnake bite, but it still requires urgent medical attention. Their venom contains cytotoxins, which destroy bodily tissues and cause internal bleeding.
Palm Pit Viper (Bothriechis spp.)
Across Mexico and Central America, there is a genus of snakes known as the palm pit vipers (or palm vipers). There are almost a dozen different species. Many of them are bright green, which comes in handy when camouflaging themselves in trees. Some examples include:
- The side-striped palm pit viper, found in Costa Rica and Panama
- The Mexican palm pit viper, found in Mexico
- The Guatemalan palm pit viper, native to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.
All palm vipers are venomous. Medical reactions to bites can range from mildly serious to fatal. Like all pit vipers, palm pit vipers have heat-sensing pits near their nostrils that they use to detect prey. They also have slit-like pupils and triangular-shaped heads.
Venomous Green Snakes in South America
South America is home to several venomous species, many of which reside in the Amazon rainforest. These include the two-striped forest pit viper, the green vine snake, and the green parrot snake.
Two-Striped Forest Pit Viper (Bothrops Bilineatus)
In the Amazon rainforest, you may discover the two-striped forest pit viper. It’s also sometimes referred to as the Amazonian palm viper.
It is an arboreal (tree-climbing) snake, easily recognized due to its yellow face and pale green body. Some specimens look almost minty-blue. It has one thin yellow stripe along each side, and is flecked with small black, tan or brown spots.
The venom of the two-striped forest pit viper causes uncontrolled bleeding, swelling, bruising under the skin, and vomiting blood. The two-striped forest pit viper belongs to the same genus as the infamous Fer-de-Lance, the most venomous snake in South America. Human deaths are rare.
Green Vine Snake (Oxybelis Fulgidus)
The green vine snake is common in the northern half of South America, as far south as Bolivia. It can also be found in Central America and southern Mexico.
South American vine snakes are long and thin with pointed snouts. They are grass-green-like in color.
Although a venomous rear-fanged green snake,” their bite isn’t lethal to humans. The most likely symptoms are swelling, tingling, and mild pain.
Green Parrot Snake (Leptophis Aahaetulla)
The green parrot snake, the Lora, is native to most of Central and South America. Its range spans from southern Mexico down to Argentina.
There are 10 recognized subspecies, but they all look reasonably similar. They have bright green scales, thin bodies, and large amber eyes. One subspecies, L. a. nigromarginatus, has black skin underneath its scales. Some have yellow undersides.
The Lora poses little threat to humans. The International Society of Toxicology found that, although its venom has components in common with Elapid snakes, it is not that toxic to mammals. So, a bite may cause swelling and numbness, but would not be a cause for concern.
Venomous Green Snakes in Africa
The tropical continent of Africa, particularly the region south of the Sahara desert, contains many highly dangerous green snakes. Among these are the green mamba, the African bush viper, and the boomslang.
Green Mamba (Dendroaspis spp.)
Perhaps the most well-known venomous snake in Africa is the black mamba, which is grey. However, it has 3 family members that are green and just as deadly. They are as follows:
- Jameson’s mamba. A pale green snake with a cream underside, native to central and western Africa. It can grow over 8 feet long.
- Western green mamba. This snake is yellowish-green in color, and tends to be slightly shorter than Jameson’s mamba. It has a narrow geographical range, only found in western Africa.
- The eastern green mamba can be found all over Africa. It is a vivid grass-green color and looks similar to the western mamba.
According to Naunyn-Schmiedeberg’s Archives of Pharmacology, green mamba venom contains dendrotoxins, which cause severe neuromuscular effects. It can cause convulsions, muscle degeneration and even death.
African Bush Viper (Atheris spp.)
The African bush viper belongs to the same family as rattlesnakes. Some are bright yellow and others are brown, but the most striking ones are bright green. They include the following:
- West African bush viper. Native to western Africa, they are a bright, forest green color from head to tail. It has heavily keeled scales and is a heavy-bodied snake.
- Green bush viper. This snake can be yellow, red, or bright green. That’s why it is sometimes known as the variable bush viper. It is found in west and central Africa, south of the Sahara desert. Its scales are keeled and pointed, creating a spiky physical appearance.
African bush viper venom is hemotoxic, which destroys red blood cells. Deaths are uncommon, but have been reported.
Boomslang (Dispholidus Typus)
Boomslangs are medium-to-large in size, growing up to 6 feet long. They have large eyes, oval-shaped heads, and relatively thick bodies.
Adult females are often brown. However, the males have bright green scales with black edges. Boomslangs are exclusively arboreal, living in trees and hunting animals found there.
The boomslang is neither a viper nor an elapid. Unlike most other colubrids, it’s extremely venomous. It is rear-fanged, but can open its jaw very wide and bite humans with ease. It uses a slow-acting hemotoxic venom, causing internal bleeding which can begin hours after the bite.
Venomous Green Snakes in Asia
The most snake bites and fatalities every year occur in Asia, particularly in the southeast. Though most of Asia’s venomous snakes are not green, there are two well-known groups of dangerous green snakes: Asian lanceheads and Asian vine snakes.
Asian Lancehead (Trimeresurus spp.)
Asian lanceheads are also known as Asian palm pit vipers. There are currently 47 known species, belonging to one single genus (Trumeresurus).
Like most vipers, they have triangular-shaped heads and slit pupils. Not all species of Asian lancehead are green, but many are, including:
- The white-lipped pit viper. Found across southeast Asia, this is a deep, vivid green snake with amber eyes and a yellow-green underside. This snake has a thin white stripe separating its dorsal and ventral scales.
- The Philippine pit viper, found in the Philippines. This snake is dark green to olive green, with small brown blotches.
- The bamboo pit viper, found only in southern India. This snake is a pale to medium green, occasionally with brown to black spots.
Asian lanceheads are venomous. Their venom is hemotoxic and dangerous to humans, though the severity of bites will vary by species.
Asian Vine Snake (Ahaetulla spp.)
Asian vine snakes look quite similar to the green vine snake of the Americas. They are very long and thin with sharply-pointed snouts.
However, Asian vine snakes have one curious characteristic which separates them from American vine snakes: their eyes have horizontal slit pupils.
There are 9 species of Asian vine snake, most of which are green. Perhaps the most well known is the long-nosed whip snake, A. nasuta. They have an interesting defense mechanism: when threatened, they can spread their scales to reveal stark black-and-white markings underneath.
Asian vine snakes are venomous, but do not pose much of a threat to people. Their fangs are tiny and their venom is not deadly to humans. It may cause nausea and feverishness, with swelling at the site of the bite.
Venomous Green Snakes in Australia
Australia has a reputation for its large number of venomous snakes, but most of these snakes are brown. The Tiger snake, however, can appear green in specific parts of Australia.
Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus)
Tiger snakes, named for their tiger-stripe-like banding on their bodies, are usually brown. However, some specimens can appear dark green, depending on where on the continent they are located.
Tiger snakes are elapids, which are some of the most venomous snakes in the world. Their venom contains neurotoxins, which affect the nervous system, and mycotoxins, which cause necrosis.
A bite from a tiger snake should be considered a medical emergency. According to the University of Western Australia, most tiger snakebite victims survive if antivenin is administered sufficiently quickly.
Non-Venomous Green Snakes in North America
North America is home to a diverse range of nonvenomous species, most of which are colubrids. Of these, 4 are green in color: the rough green snake, the smooth green snake, the green water snake, and the green rat snake.
Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys Aestivus)
The rough green snake is common throughout the southeastern United States. It’s found as far east as central Texas, in areas with lots of vegetation.
As with most snakes that are green in color, the rough green snake is arboreal, spending most of its time in trees. Rough green snakes grow up to 3.8 feet in length.
They are slim-bodied and light with large round eyes. They are a grass-green color, with lightly keeled (ridged) scales and a yellowish underbelly.
Rough green snakes do not possess venom, killing their prey by constriction. Bites from their small, hooked teeth are not particularly painful or dangerous. They are docile around humans, and many people keep rough green snakes as pets.
Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys Vernalis)
The smooth green snake is a close relative of the rough green snake, and almost identical. They differ in 3 ways:
- Smooth green snakes, on average, grow less than half the length of rough green snakes (1.6 feet). They may reach 2 feet long.
- They have smooth scales as opposed to the keeled scales found in rough green snakes.
- Geographical range. The smooth green snake can be found mainly in the northeastern states, from Montana to Maine. There is little range overlap with the rough green snake, although according to the US Forest Service, a small population exists as far south as Texas.
Smooth green snakes are bright green, but can be darker as juveniles. They are nonvenomous and pose no risk to humans.
Green Water Snake (Nerodia Cyclopion)
There are many nonvenomous water snakes, belonging to the genus Nerodia, across the United States. Most are brown, grey or black.
The green water snake is a dark forest-green to olive-green. It is found in the southeastern states, from Texas to Florida. Its range reaches as north as Illinois.
Like the water moccasin, the green water snake favors marshy and wet environments. The two semi-aquatic snakes can often be found in the same habitats as they feed on the same prey (fish and amphibians), and they are often mistaken for each other.
However, the green water snake is nonvenomous and harmless to humans. It has a narrower head than the cottonmouth and round pupils.
Green Rat Snake (Senticolis Triaspis)
Most North American rat snakes, such as black rat snakes and corn snakes, belong to the genus Pantherophis. However, the green rat snake is part of a separate monotypic genus. It can be found throughout Central America, Mexico, and a small region of the US (southern Arizona and southern New Mexico).
Green rat snakes are light to dark olive green in color, with a light yellow underbelly. They are long, slender snakes, with narrow heads and smooth scales. A bite is not medically significant.
Non-Venomous Green Snakes in South America
The Amazon rainforest is home to numerous nonvenomous snakes that use green coloration to camouflage themselves in the trees. The 2 most well-known of these are the emerald tree boa and the green anaconda.
Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus Caninus)
Native to the rainforests of South America, emerald tree boas live exclusively in trees. They have evolved a unique way of wrapping their coils around branches.
Juvenile emerald tree boas are orange or red. As they grow, they lose this coloration and transform into a vivid shade of green. They have irregular lightning-bolt shaped white patches down their bodies.
Emerald tree boas are constrictors. They also have the longest front teeth of any nonvenomous snake. So, while a bite may not require medical intervention, it would hurt and bleed.
Green Anaconda (Eunectes Murinus)
The green anaconda is known for its length. They can reach up to 17 feet long. They are olive-green with dark blotches on their bodies. Some specimens are lighter than others.
Native to the northern half of South America, including most of Brazil, the green anaconda enjoys marshes and swampy habitats. They have been known to eat capybaras, jaguars, and even caimans.
Green anacondas are nonvenomous. However, they are far from harmless to humans. They are one of the only species large enough to constrict and eat humans, which has occasionally been known to happen.
Non-Venomous Green Snakes in Africa
Africa is home to a considerable number of green snakes. The most common of these are members of the genus Philothamnus, including the green water snake and the spotted bush snake.
African Green Water Snake (Philothamnus Hoplogaster)
The African green water is a small, thin colubrid that’s about 2 feet in length.
The dorsal side is emerald green in color and the ventral side is whitish-cream. Some specimens have black banding behind the head.
These snakes live in wet environments, such as swamps and floodplains. Some of the green water snake’s geographical region overlaps with the eastern green mamba, so they can be confused. Green water snakes are nonvenomous and rarely bite humans, though.
Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus Semivariegatus)
The spotted bush snake belongs to the same taxonomical genus as the green water snake. However, they look quite different from one another. Spotted bush snakes are thin with very large eyes and can grow up to 5 feet long.
They are pale grass green to mint green in color, with two rows of black spots running down their bodies. These spots get smaller eventually fade away towards the tail.
Spotted bush snakes are harmless constrictors. They flee from humans and will only bite as a last resort.
Non-Venomous Green Snakes in Asia
Asia is home to the green tree python and a common colubrid, called the greater green snake.
Greater Green Snake (Cyclophiops Major)
The greater green snake is a colubrid native to Vietnam, China, Taiwan, and Laos. It is similar in appearance to the rough and smooth green snakes.
Greater green snakes grow up to 3 feet long. They have bright green dorsal scales and greenish-yellow bellies. They can often be found in forests and on agricultural land, where they hunt mainly insects.
Greater green snakes are nonvenomous and pose no risk to humans. They are quite timid and can rarely be provoked enough to bite.
Green Tree Python (Morella Viridis)
Green tree pythons can be found in New Guinea, extreme northern Australia, and Indonesia. They are similar in appearance and behavior to emerald tree boas, despite belonging to different families.
They are bright green, heavy-bodied snakes, with flecks of white scales down their body. Juveniles can be yellow or red with white blotches.
Green tree pythons spend most of their time looped around branches, waiting to ambush prey. They have heat-sensing pits near their lips, helping them to detect warm-blooded animals.
They are non-venomous, and do not pose any danger to humans. In fact, green tree pythons are commonly kept as pets.
Non-Venomous Green Snakes in Australia
Not every snake in Australia is venomous. One of Australia’s most common nonvenomous snakes that is green in color is the Australian tree snake.
Australian Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis Punctulatus)
The Australian tree snake of northern and eastern Australia and New South Wales is one of Australia’s most common nonvenomous snakes. Although they are usually grass-green in color, they can also be dark green, black, or blue.
They are defensive and have been known to bite humans. However, because they are nonvenomous, they don’t pose much of a medical risk. They can be found in long grass, hunting amphibians, and lizards.
If you ever encounter a green snake in the wild, you can identify it. Never attempt to catch or touch a wild snake, even if you believe it to be harmless. Many venomous and non-venomous snakes that are green look alike.