An expert climber from Africa

Common Name: Boomslang

Scientific Name: Dispholidus typus

Family: Colubridae

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa

Max Size: Approximately 2 metres

Diet: Lizards, birds, eggs and frogs

Reproduction: Oviparous

Venom: Deadly Haemotoxin


The boomslang (boom = tree; slang = snake), Dispholidus typus, is a common yet rarely encountered snake.

As the name suggests, they are expert climbers and spend most of their time in trees and shrubs utilizing their excellent camouflage to escape detection.

Occasionally this shy snake will leave the security of  the treetops to hunt or bask in the sun’s warming rays but may also be found in the safety of crags and rock crevices.

Drop for drop the boomslang has the most potent venom of any South African snake. It seldom bites however, and when it has occurred, usually the victim has either been tampering with it or handling it in some way.

There is a number of common fallacies about this snake. The two most common ones are that:

  1. They will drop from trees to bite you
  2. They cannot bite you easily because their teeth are small and too far back so they have to chew

Number one, no snake will EVER bite unprovoked – for an expert climber to drop from a tree and put itself in a life-threatening situation just to bite something that it wont eat – well, if you think about it, it just doesn’t make sense.

Number two, make NO mistake, a boomslang CAN bite you and if it goes untreated it can result in death. Fortunately, unless the snake is overly aggravated they are commonly known to give a dry-bite – a bite where no venom is injected out of choice – which is the most likely origin of the myth.

Warning: Dry-bites or not, the venom of this snake is lethal and the boomslang should always be treated with due respect.


  • Tree dwelling lizards (chameleons), birds, eggs and frogs


  • Oviparous laying up to 27 eggs; late spring to  midsummer

Key ID points:

  • Medium sized snake up to 2 metres
  • Keeled scales
  • Very large eyes in comparison with the head
  • Shy snake, spending most of its time in the cover of trees or bushes
  • Colour variable: Females dull brown to olive; Males green to black above and yellow below

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Snake playing dead with a question mark over its head.

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