Monday, April 2, 2012

Garter Snake and Common Blue Violets

I found the Water Garden Garter Snake wreathed in violet flowers while warming itself on the sunny brick patio.  It was early enough in the morning that the air was still cool, so I thought I would try for a few close-up photos before the snake became more active.  It was probably the snake’s cool morning sluggishness combined with the protective feel of the surrounding violet leaves that caused the snake to allow my close approach.  I took several shots before backing away and allowing the snake to continue warming.

Snake eyes have a neat habit of reflecting their surroundings.  If the snake is cooperative, I try to get in close enough to capture my reflection in the snake’s eye.  That’s my head and hands showing between three and four o’clock in the snake’s pupil.  I was belly down on the patio and about two feet away when I took this shot.

Common Blue Violets gave a wonderful background for the snake.  This native plant is quite aggressive and will readily colonize any open ground.  It has done exceptionally well at surviving in the spaces between bricks on our patio and at filling in between the rocks around the Water Garden.

I eliminate the non-native plants that try to grow here, so the violets can develop without competition.  Common Blue Violets seem to be eaten by any animal that includes vegetable matter in its diet.  Ants commonly visit the flowers to collect nectar.  The plants won’t make it through the spring without suffering some damage from plant consumers.  Sometimes they get eaten right to the ground.

The lower petal forms a rearward projection known as a spur.  Length of the spur can vary considerably between species and is often an important identification characteristic.  I find it amazing how many people have never looked at the back side of a violet flower.  This flower is found in millions of American lawns, but is so often ignored.

There’s considerable competition between violet seedlings for any available space.  Only a few of these will develop into mature plants.  Now, if I get really lucky, I’ll come out one morning to find a litter of baby Garter Snakes lounging in the young violet plants.


  1. I love the snake's "pose" in the first photo. Looks like a glamour shot!

  2. Hi Carolyn. Cold snakes are usually cooperative models.