It is St. Patrick’s Day after all, so what about a song from The New Christy Minstrels?

Green, green, it’s green they say

On the far side of the hill

Green, green, I’m goin’ away

To where the grass is greener still …

We will stick with green, even though autumn is waiting in the wings, and begin  with the counting out rhyme

A little green snake

Ate too much cake,

And now he’s got

A belly-ache!

This green snake, found on the lawn at Royal Natal National Park, didn’t get a belly-ache but had its head neatly chopped off – probably by one of the gardeners.

Several streets of the town I live in are lined with oak trees. Here are new leaves shining in the sunlight.

While prickly pears are not indigenous to this country, they have spread everywhere.

Known abroad as the jade plant for some reason, the Crassula ovata is indigenous here and we have several of them growing in our garden. This one is almost ready to show off its lovely flowers.

Spekboom is also indigenous to the Eastern Cape and grows very easily in my garden.

Lastly, these pods of the Weeping Boerbean (Schotia brachypetala) caught my eye.



On this Friday evening I feel like showing you some images taken this week. I will begin with two warthogs that stopped to look carefully before they crossed a country road ahead of me.

I was struck by this tiny bright yellow spider hiding among some rather dry poppy leaves in our back garden.

While I was watching birds in the front garden, this little bug dropped down from the branch above me and walked about my notebook.

I have commented on the swathes of yellow flowers gracing the veld at the moment. I came across this clump growing in a crack along the verge in my street.

Looking up, I cannot help admiring the jacaranda tree that has come into bloom.

Looking down, here is part of a snake that was lying in the road. Unfortunately it had been run over by a vehicle – which is how I could approach it so closely with my cell phone!


… NOT to be repeated!

It is a myth that only cobras spit venom – Black Mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis) do too. I know, because one spat at me!

I am getting ahead of myself.

You must know that the Black Mamba is one of the most feared snakes in Africa – with good reason: its venom is highly toxic for it contains both neurotoxins and cardio toxins. The first affects the nervous system, while the latter attacks the heart.

Another fact worth bearing in mind is that a Black Mamba is not black, rather it is named for the black colour of the inside of its mouth – I doubt if you would wish to be that close to one for a good look. The body tends to be a uniform brownish-grey or olive colour that helps it to blend into its surroundings very easily – except when it happens to be inside the toilet at a picnic spot in a game reserve!

Despite the fearsome reputation the Black Mamba has garnered, it is apparently not an aggressive snake and – like many other snakes – would rather head away from humans than choose to attack them. Of course, if the snake is cornered in a toilet then it would naturally feel threatened and raise its front and head off the ground to deter the perceived threat – and it will spit, injecting large quantities of venom in a spray!

Don’t expect a clear picture – I had to snap and turn away in a hurry.

This is what happened: I was photographing butterflies when I heard my sister-in-law call out that there was a snake in the toilet. Being the curious one that I am, and with a camera in hand, I thought I would take a closer look. There was this innocuous looking snake just inside the door of the rustic toilet … I raised my camera to photograph it … and it raised itself off the floor … I turned away and jumped back just in time as I saw the spray of venom in the sunlight, some landing on my trouser leg.

Fortunately, it was not aggressive but simply wanted to get away. Instead of heading out of the door, it turned back towards the toilet – had it been resting from the heat there? I hastily took one more photograph and left it in peace.

What a clottish thing to do, you are bound to think. Believe me, I have been given a flea in my ear from more than one member of my family. The thing is, at the time it was simply a snake – it was only after consulting the field guide that I realised what I had been up against. This was truly a case of ignorance is bliss.


While I draw the line at a Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) making itself comfortable in our home – as one tried to nine years ago – I have never minded seeing them in our garden.

It has happened more than once that I have nearly stepped on one as they lie so still and are perfectly camouflaged in the leaves. The Puff Adder is responsible for more bites and fatalities in Africa than any other snake due to its habit of not moving away from approaching footsteps. It is fortunate that I have not been bitten, for although they are rather slow-moving snakes, they are reputed to be one of the fastest striking snakes in the world. Despite having got very close to a few Puff Adders, I have never heard one emitting the hissing sound that has given rise to its common name.

When disturbed, Puff Adders coil into a defensive S-shaped posture.

The Puff Adder has a thick, heavily built body with a large, flattened, triangular head and large nostrils which point vertically upwards.

The body is yellow-brown to light brown, with black, pale-edged chevrons on the back and bars on the tail.

I came across a dead Puff Adder while out walking this morning and so got a clear view of its whitish yellow belly with some scattered dark spots.

I turned it over so that you can see the full beauty of the Puff Adder.

The Puff Adder is the most widely-spread venomous snake in South Africa. This one was in our garden.

You can see a range of beautiful photographs of Puff Adders at



There was a puddle in the road. Something caught my eye as we passed it: just a glimpse of something unusual. “Stop!” I called out. “Reverse please, but not in the puddle!” This is what we saw:

Time marched on, so we did not witness the final demise of the lizard – or did it get away? It was definitely not going down without resistance!

UPDATE: Thank you to Chad Keates (see comment below) for identifying this as a Cross-marked Whip Snake (Psammophis crucifer) eating a Cape Skink (Trachylepis capensis).