Tarzan, the common tree snake
tree snake, green tree snake, Australian tree snake.
I came across this beautiful slender tree snake one afternoon about 3:30. It was well camouflaged, lying across rocks at the water's edge among long grass on the banks of Calamvale Creek.
The snake was not obvious at first, and even when I noticed its tail I could not see where the head was until I visually followed the tail around and eventually saw the whole snake. On the photo above I have put a red arrow pointing towards its head to make it clearer.
It was about one metre long, its colour was gunmetal bluish grey, and it watched me for a minute or two before scurrying off into long grass when I stepped closer to get a better photo.
Although these snakes are called tree snakes, I have only seen one in a tree around the creek in the past 10 years.
I have seen beautiful green tree snakes slithering along the sill outside my front window, on my back fence and side fences, on a wooden table outside my back door, on rocks hidden by vegetation, and on the ground around the creek bank in long grass.
The only reason I saw the one in a tree was because I saw it dart into the small tree when it saw me. It became almost invisible in the tree, because it was the same thickness as the branches and the same colour as the leaves.
Looking for water skinks
Back to the tree snake on the rock … The rocks it was on are commonly used by eastern water skinks and baby water dragons to sun themselves and play in the early afternoon. I'm sure the snake knew this and was looking for lunch.
Another beautiful tree snake
This little tree snake had absolutely beautiful blue-green colouring as it slid along the top of my side fence heading for a tree fern.
It was only about 60 or 70 centimetres long, which is less than two-thirds of an adult's size.
When it saw me with my camera, it stopped and looked at me, and flicked out its tongue a few times. After it realized I wasn't a threat, and that I was too big to be its meal, it slowly slid into a large nearby tree fern.
This was the second tree snake I had seen this day. An earlier one on my other side fence had disappeared by the time I got my camera from inside the house.
The earlier one was even smaller than this one, and its colouring was bluish-grey like the one near the top of this page.
These common tree snakes (Dendrelaphis punctulatus) are very pretty, and they help clean up some of the little pests around houses near the creek.
They are non-venomous, and have only small teeth and no fangs. So if you see one, enjoy the spectacle while it lasts — don't get into the habit of thinking the only good snake is a dead one.
Tree snake skins
One Sunday morning last October I noticed a snake skin hanging in a tree in my back yard (photo at left).
It was a great topic of conversation, although tree snake skins are the most commonly found snake skins in Brisbane.
Why do snakes shed their skin?
Snakes shed their skin as they grow — young snakes shed their skins about every 6 to 8 weeks because they grow so quickly. Adults cast off their old skins every year or two. If a snake is injured it will shed its skin to promote healing.
The skin in our tree was in two sections, although snakes often shed their skin in one piece.
When the new skin starts to form, the snake secretes a milky liquid between the two layers of skin.
After a couple of weeks, the snake rubs its nose against a branch or something rough, and the old skin peels back and turns inside out.
The skin gives a very clear impression of the snake's form, even down to the eye holes and jaws (see photo of snake's head skin above.)
More about common tree snakes
- The common tree snake is found all along coastal Queensland; a northern tree snake is found in far north tropical Queensland.
- When threatened, the common tree snake raises itself up and reveals electric blue flecks of skin between its scales.
- Common tree snakes are not venomous, and even if they bite you it won't do much injury because they have no fangs.
- They feed on small lizards, frogs, small mammals, geckoes, turtle hatchlings and reptile eggs. They sometimes eat fish, and seem to find water skinks a delicacy.
- They are active during the day, and into the evening if prey is nearby. At night they stay in crevices of trees and logs or among foliage.
- Common tree snakes may release a stink from their anal glands if threatened — as do keelbacks.
- The habitat of common tree snakes includes thickly vegetated banks of rivers, creeks and streams, rainforest perimeters, woodlands, eucalypt forests, and heathland.
- Most of the sloughed skins taken to Queensland Museum for identification belong to common tree snakes.
- Females lay about 6 to 12 elongated eggs per clutch.
- They are Brisbane's most commonly encountered climbing snake, and are found in all areas of Brisbane that have thick vegetation.
- They are often found in gardens, and in houses among rafters and veranda railings.
— Robert Doolan