Smooth Greensnake
Opheodrys vernalis

** Harmless **

Common Name:

Smooth Greensnake

Scientific Name:

Opheodrys vernalis



Opheodrys is derived from the Greek words ophios which means "serpent" and drys meaning "tree".


vernalis is Latin for "of springtime".

Vernacular Names:

Common green snake, grass snake, northern grass snake, green grass snake, green whip snake, smooth-coated green snake, spring snake, summer snake.

Average Length:

11 - 20 in. (30.3 - 51 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

22.4 in. (57 cm)

Record length:

26 in. (66 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier III - High Conservation Need - Extinction or extirpation is possible. Populations of these species are in decline or have declined to low levels or are in a restricted range. Management action is needed to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This species is bright green above and greenish-white, cream or light yellow below. The body is slender and the preserved specimens turn blue. The juvenile is similar to the adult but darker and less bright. The dorsal scales are smooth with 15 scale rows and the anal plate divided. Loreal and preocular scales are present. They are about 5 inches when they hatch and grow to over 24 inches with the average adults from 12 to 20 inches long *1006*. In VA., maximum known SVL is 424 mm (16.7 in.) and max total length is 570 mm (22.4 in.) *10760*. Outside Virginia, the maximum known total length is 26 inches. Adults are usually 12 to 21 inches in total length *11523*.

COLORATION and PATTERN: Dorsum of body, tail, and head uniform light green; venter, chin, labial scales and rostrum uniform yellowish green to white; green color changes to light blue in preservative. This is a slender snake with a long tail.*10760*

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Sexual dimorphism is expressed in body size and scutellation. Females average longer (340.4+/-39.2 mm SVL, 287-424, n=13) than males (297.7+/-23.2 mm SVL, 272-333, n=7) and reach a longer total length (females 570 mm, males 509 mm). Sexual dimorphism index is 1.14. The average tail length/total length ratio is higher in males (33.7.+/-1.9, 29.6-36.6, n=18) than females (29.8+/-2.5, 25.0-34.3, n=24). Body mass is greater in adult females (avg. = 19.5+/-5.5 g, 12-32, n=17; males avg. = 15.3+/-2.2 g, 12-19, n=10).*10760* Females possess a slightly higher average number of ventral scales (130.6+/-5.6, 111-141,n=26; males 124.9+/-6.0, 106-135,n=20), but males have a higher average number of subcaudal scales (85.2+/-5.7, 70-91, n=16) than females (80.1+/-4.3, 73-90, n=24). Counts of ventral + subcaudal scales are not sexually dimorphic (males 211.4+/-5.1, 201-222, n=16; females 210.9+/-7.3, 190-220, n=24).*10760*

JUVENILES: Juveniles are colored and patterned as adults, except that the green is paler. At hatching, juveniles are 88-92 mm SVL (avg. = 90.3+/-2.1, n=3), 128-132 mm total length (avg. = 130.7+/2.3) and weigh an average of 1.1 g.*10760*

CONFUSING SPECIES: Opheodrys vernalis may be confused with rough green snakes (O. aestivus) which are larger and have keeled dorsal scales. Geographic Variation: There are no differences in scuttellation between samples from the Blue Ridge Mountains and those from the Ridge and Valley physiographic regions in VA.

REPRODUCTION: The female deposits from 3-12 eggs in the summer. The young often hatch less than a month after the eggs are laid *1006*. Mating occurs in spring (usually May) and August.*10760* Eggs have hatched in four days at high temperatures *11539,11523*. Incubation time varies from 4 to 23 days *11541,11540,11523*. They sometimes lay communal nests. The largest communal nest was found under a rock in Nova Scotia and contained 30 eggs *11542,11523*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is usually found at grass level rather than in shrubbery although they are more arboreal in wet areas. This species will hibernate in large aggregations in the north. Ant mounds seem to be favorite sites. Communal nesting site have also been found. Small clutches of smooth eggs are laid under rocks in loose, loamy soil. Fitch listed average clutch sizes of 5.8-7.2 from throughout the range of this snake, egg laying dates between 24 June and 31 July, and hatching dates in August and early September.*10760* This species will feed on insects, spiders, salamanders, snails, slugs, centipedes and millipedes. Most prey is swallowed alive *1006*.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: This species is prey for opossums, skunks and kingsnakes *1006*. The population ecology of this species is unknown. *10760* L. vernalis does not bite or discharge musk. It will attempt to escape predators by seeking grass cover and the safety of surface objects. It does not climb into vegetation like O. aestivus.*10760*

POPULATION PARAMETERS: The longevity record for this species is 6 years and 1 month *11523*.

References for Life History

  • 1006 - Linzey, D.W., M.J. Clifford, 1981, Snakes of Virginia, Univ. of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, VA
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11523 - Thorp, T.J., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert Review for GAP Analysis Project, Three Lakes Nature Center and Aquarium
  • 11539 - Greene, H.W., 1997, Snakes, the Evolution of Mystery in Nature, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, CA
  • 11540 - Klemens, M.W., 1993, Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut and Adjacent Regions. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut, Bulletin 112, Hartford, Connecticut
  • 11541 - Shaffer, L.L., 1982, Pennsylvania Amphibians and Reptiles, Pennsylvania Fish Commission, Harrisburg, PA
  • 11542 - Hunter, M.L., Jr., J. Albright, J. Arbuckle, 1992, The Amphibians and Reptiles of Maine, Bulletin 838, Maine Agricultural Experiment Station University of Maine, Orone, ME


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Albemarle County
Alleghany County
Amherst County
Augusta County
Bath County
Bland County
Clifton Forge City
Craig County
Floyd County
Frederick County
Highland County
Madison County
Nelson County
Page County
Roanoke County
Rockbridge County
Rockingham County
Shenandoah County
Verified in 18 Counties/Cities.


Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.