8 Stunning Purple Snakes

From Tropical Jungles to Arid Deserts: Meet the Purple Snakes of the World

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Let's talk about purple snakes. Yes, you heard us right – purple snakes! Sure, green, brown, and black colors often dominate our imagination when we think about snakes. However, there are a few (but still rare) species of purple snakes out there. The hue is so uncommon that it often leaves herpetologists and snake enthusiasts alike in awe.

The rarity of this coloration is usually due to unique genetic morphs, which result in these snakes displaying (often gorgeous) shades of lavender, violet, and deep purple. These morphs can be naturally occurring or selectively bred, adding another layer of fascination to these already intriguing creatures. Today, we'll explore 7 captivating purple species that defy the norm and capture our imagination.

 1. Purple Garter Snake

Purple garter snake close-up

Purple garter snake close-up.

The purple garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), a variant of the common garter snake, is a sight to behold with its lavender to deep purple scales. It is native to North America. Purple garter snakes usually measure between 18-26 inches in length, although some individuals have been known to reach up to 49 inches.
 
Their habitat preferences are quite diverse. They can range from meadows and marshes to woodlands and hillsides. They have a particular fondness for moist, grassy environments and are frequently found near water bodies like ponds, lakes, ditches, and streams.

They are diurnal creatures, meaning they are active during the day and display curious and sometimes bold behavior. They are non-venomous and feed on earthworms, amphibians, and small fish.

2. Mangrove Pit Viper

Mangrove pit viper

Mangrove pit viper coiled on a tree branch.

The Mangrove pit viper is a venomous snake native to Bangladesh, Burma, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and West Malaysia. Its striking purple hue makes it a snake that's as beautiful as it is dangerous. Male mangrove pit vipers typically grow to about 26 inches, while females can reach up to 35 inches.

It's primarily nocturnal, lying in ambush for prey such as small mammals and birds. They prefer being near water and thrive in highly humid areas, such as mangrove forests and coastal forests along the ocean. This includes brackish water environments.

These snakes are often found in various parts of the mangrove ecosystem - from the roots to the canopy. The snake's venom is hemotoxic, affecting the blood and tissues, and can be fatal if not treated promptly. The purple coloration is not just for show; it serves as excellent camouflage in the snake's natural habitat, blending seamlessly with the mangrove foliage.

3. Lavender Corn Snake

Lavender corn snake

Lavender corn snakes.

The Lavender corn snake is a selectively bred morph of the common corn snake known for its stunning lavender and grayish-purple scales. While native to the southeastern United States, their habitat is quite diverse. They can be found not only in forests and grasslands but also in residential areas, which makes them a common sight in various environments. This snake ranges in size from 4 to 5 feet long.

They are constrictors, which means they squeeze their prey to death – pretty scary, right? Their diet consists mainly of rodents. Despite their intimidating appearance, they are non-venomous and are often kept as pets due to their docile behavior and ease of care. 

4. Eastern Indigo Snake

Eastern indigo snake

Eastern indigo snake resting in wetland.

The Eastern indigo snake is a large, non-venomous snake native to the southeastern United States. Their geographical range is primarily restricted to Florida and southern areas of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. It has a deep indigo color that can appear purple under certain lighting conditions.

They're the longest snake native to the United States, with sizes ranging from 5 to 7 feet. Unlike many other snake species, indigo snakes are diurnal and active strictly during the day. They display a seasonal preference for habitats: during the summer, they frequent wetland edges abundant in prey, while in winter, they move to drier terrains.
 
What's fascinating is that they are more active in cold weather than most other snakes and even breed during winter. Their diet is diverse and daring, as they regularly feed on mammals, birds, frogs, and other snakes. This even includes other venomous species like rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. Despite their intimidating size, they're known for their docile nature and are listed as a threatened species in some parts of their range.

5. Brazilian Rainbow Boa

Brazilian rainbow boa

Rainbow boa purple stripes.

The Brazilian rainbow boa is a stunning snake native to Central and South America. Their natural habitat extends to the Amazon River basin, French Guiana, coastal Guyana, southern Venezuela and Suriname.. Its name comes from the iridescent sheen on its scales, which can give off a purple hue.

These non-venomous snakes are nocturnal and can grow from 4 to 6 feet. They are constrictors (remember, they wrap around their victims) and feed on various prey, such as rodents, bats and birds. They also consume aquatic life and lizards, which showcases their versatile hunting skills. Their striking appearance and unique coloration make them popular among reptile enthusiasts.

6. California Kingsnake

California Purple Kingsnake

California Purple Kingsnake.

The purple California kingsnake is a naturally occurring morph known for its gorgeous brownish-purple and cream bands. It is a non-venomous snake endemic to the western United States and northwest Mexico. Cal kings live in diverse habitats, from forests and grasslands to marshes, deserts, coastal and even residential areas.

These medium-sized snakes grow between 3-4 feet and consume a wide range of prey, including rodents, birds, amphibians, eggs, and other snakes. Their immunity to certain types of snake venom gives them a unique advantage in their habitat. They are also known for their docile nature and make excellent pets.

7. Cape File Snake

Cape file snake with white background

Purple cape file snake.

The Cape file snake is a large, non-venomous snake inhabiting coastal forests and savannas across Africa. Its unique "file-like" appearance (characterized by a long, slender body tapered at both ends) sets it apart from other snake species. These snakes are primarily diurnal, meaning they are active during the day - and can be found in trees and on the ground.

These snakes have an average length of about 3 feet 11 inches, but some specimens have reached up to 5 feet 5 inches. What makes the cape file snake particularly fascinating? We would argue that it is its specialized diet: it preys almost exclusively on other snakes, including venomous species like cobras and puff adders. Its immunity to various snake venoms gives it a unique predatory advantage.

And, adding to its distinctiveness, the snake's dorsal scales are strongly keeled - featuring a ridge down the center that gives them a rough texture. This feature aids them in climbing trees. The skin between these keeled scales often reveals a pink-purple hue. While their primary color is usually grey to grey-brown, they can sometimes appear dark olive to purple-brown.

8. Amethystine Python

Amethystine python

Amethystine python head close-up.

The amethystine python, native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, is one of the largest snake species in the world. Their size is truly awe-inspiring, ranging from 7 to 13 feet long, and they are excellent climbers. Its scales have an iridescent quality that can give off a purple sheen. They are adaptable creatures that can thrive in various habitats, from rainforests to shrublands and farmlands - especially those with warm, humid conditions and a reliable water source.

Their diet is not just limited to birds and small mammals. Larger specimens have been known to prey on possums and wallabies. Despite their intimidating size, they are generally not aggressive and are sometimes kept as exotic pets.

The Role of Color in Snake Behavior

The purple color in snakes is not just rare and beautiful. It serves functional roles in their behavior and survival. For some species, the purple hue acts as camouflage, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their environment. In others, the color may warn potential predators - signaling that the snake is venomous.

The rarity of this coloration also makes these snakes a subject of fascination and study and provides valuable insights into the role of pigmentation in reptilian behavior and ecology.