Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Garden Snakes (Mostly)

WARNING! If the image of any snake makes you anxious, then avoid reading this article.


Non-venomous DeKay's brown snake. Photo: Joe Armetta.

DeKay's Brown Snake

Joe asked AHA to help identify a snake he found in his landscape, “[I] found this 10” snake in garden and flower beds- it has a white belly - any idea what type of snake it is? Thanks.”

Dr. Ashley Long is an extension wildlife biologist with the LSU AgCenter, and she assisted with identifying this snake, “[It is a] non-venomous DeKay’s brown snake – good species to have in the garden – they help with pest control.”

Kevin Hood of Louisiana Sportsman in an article entitled, “Snake I.D. – Louisiana’s snakes identified”, made these comments about DeKay’s brown snake, “Adults typically measure about 12 inches long, with the record being slightly more than 20 inches. They consume common pests like snails and slugs, so they are often found by people who are working in their flower beds and gardens. They’re very beneficial and should always be left alone to do their work keeping pests in control. Commonly misidentified as “ground rattlers,” these snakes will often vibrate their tails on leaves to mimic the sound of a rattlesnake, but they are completely harmless to humans and pets.”

Plain bellied watersnake. Photo: Lucas Gasson, Baton Rouge, LA.

Plain Bellied Watersnake

Lucas from Baton Rouge asked to identify a snake in his garden, “I saw your contact information in an article on non-venomous snakes and was wondering if you could help me out. I am looking for some assistance in identifying a snake that came out of my milkweed garden in the Broadmoor neighborhood in Baton Rouge. It was around 6 to 7 feet long and 3 to 4 inches in diameter. I was told that it might be a plain-bellied watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster). Can you help confirm or ID? Thanks.”

Again, Dr. Long confirmed Lucas’ correct name of the snake in his milkweed garden. Brad Glorioso, an ecologist with the US Geological Survey, made this observation, “I have observed this species in nearly every place I have herped in Louisiana, sometimes relatively far from water.”

In the article entitled, “Snake I.D. – Louisiana’s snakes identified Part III: Watersnakes”, Kevin Hood wrote this item about watersnakes, “These are non-venomous, semi-aquatic snakes.” He also shared these points, “They occur throughout the state, and they typically live around ponds, lakes and wetlands, but they are known to venture away from water in search of their main prey: frogs. If threatened, they often secrete a foul-smelling liquid comprised of digestive system by-products called “musk” — it smells very similar to a skunk!”


Banded watersnake. Photo: Wally Caraway, Sugartown, LA.

Banded Watersnake

Wally told AHA that he had killed a snake at his home and wanted to identify it, so he emailed an image.

Dr. Long has a perfect 3-for-3 record for identifying snakes. She reports that this is a banded watersnake. The website of the Florida Museum (FM) also named this reptile as “southern watersnake”. FM describes the risk of this snake to people and pets, “Southern Watersnakes are not dangerous to people or pets, but they will readily bite to defend themselves. These snakes are not aggressive and avoid direct contact with people and pets. Virtually all bites occur when the snakes are intentionally molested.”

State herpetologist Jeff Boundy works for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and he states, ““Of all the inquiries I receive and track, about 97% of them are nonvenomous snakes.” He discusses the benefits of having snakes in the environment, “Without [snakes], populations of insects, frogs, snails, mice, rats and other small animals would sprawl out of control.”


Hammerhead flatworm. Photo: Samantha Gilcrease, New Iberia, LA.

Hammerhead Flatworm

Finally, Samantha sent and image of a long slithering animal, but it was not a snake, and she wrote in her email, “I recently noticed a few articles talking about hammerhead [flat]worms in Louisiana. I had one crawling on our glass door [in New Iberia].

Hammerhead flatworms (HHFW) are native to Vietnam and likely were introduced accidently through the introduction of exotic plants. They thrive in hot, humid environments, especially in greenhouses. They are known predators of earthworms. Avoid cutting us this flatworm because more baby flatworms will result. The Texas Invasive Species Institute (TISA) recommend treating HHFW “with orange essence (citrus oil), and salt (as with slugs and snails). They can also be sprayed with a combination of citrus oil and vinegar; or just vinegar alone and it must be applied directly on the flatworm.”

Samantha reported how her treatment performed, “The vinegar worked great! It shriveled up and looked quite painful in the process!”

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 318.264.2448 or Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

10/21/2021 2:37:17 PM
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