A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek


Scientific stuff

Common tree snake
Also called
tree snake,
green tree snake, Australian tree snake.

Dendrelaphis punctulatus
Family: Colubridae
Suborder: Serpentes
Order: Squamata
Class: Reptilia

The common tree snake is thin and swift moving. It is a very pretty snake, with large eyes and a tail that tapers gradually into a fine point.

Colours vary greatly, although the underbelly and throat are nearly always yellow or cream. They may be green, olive, brownish, blue, grey, or various shades of those colours.

They can be hard to see because they blend well with long grasses and tree foliage — sometimes swaying gently like long grass does in the wind.

Common tree snakes are active by day and sometimes into the evening, searching trees and long grass for food. They like to spend their nights in tree hollows, holes in logs, or among heavy foliage.

These snakes are non-venomous, and are very common in Brisbane wherever there is lush vegetation, especially thickly vegetated river banks and streams. Quite a number live around Calamvale Creek.

Common size is just over one metre, but they may grow to two metres.

Like the keelbacks around Calamvale Creek, the tree snakes are not aggressive and may let you get quite close to them before darting off rapidly. If you grab them, they can let off a bad smell and they may bite.

Using our photos

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Tarzan the tree snake's photos

The photographer said:
“I named this common tree snake Tarzan after the film and book character who spends a lot of time in the trees.

“I don't see a large number of snakes around Calamvale Creek, so it is always a thrill to see one, particularly as all the snakes I have seen here have been non-venomous species.

“Usually when I have seen snakes in the past I haven't had my camera handy. I was especially disappointed that I didn't have my camera working when a large python took up residence in a tree outside my bedroom window.

“Finding this tree snake on a rock was a real fluke. My sister had flown up to see me from interstate, and I offered to show her around the creek.

“We looked at all the places I expected to find the critters, and while I thought we may see some water dragons on a couple of rocks, the snake was there instead.

“The other snake pictured in the main article was a real thrill.

“Twice in the previous week I had missed getting a photo of a young snake that seems to be living in my garden or near my house.

“When this elegantly beautiful green snake appeared on my fence, and my camera was close by, I was again delighted to get a few photos of it.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Tarzan, the common tree snake

Also called:
tree snake, green tree snake, Australian tree snake.

Dendrelaphis punctulatus

Common tree snake on rocks at Calamvale Creek

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.

Green tree snake at Queensland's Calamvale Creek 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

Dendrelaphis_punctulatus_3 (35K)

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

A common Australian tree snake (Dendrelaphis punctulatus) slithers along a paling fence near Calamvale Creek.

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.

A curious little green tree snake looks quizzically at the photographer.

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

Snake skin in tree

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.

Snake skin head in tree 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

— Robert Doolan