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the web of life in southern Africa

Philothamnus semivariegatus (Spotted bush snake, Variegated bush snake)

Gespikkelde bosslang [Afrikaans]; Inambezulu [Xhosa]; inDlondlo [Ndebele]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata > Serpentes (snakes) > Family: Colubridae > Subfamily: Colubrinae > Genus: Philothamnus

Spotted bush snake, Limpopo. [photo G. Diedericks from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Spotted bush snake in KwaZulu-Natal garden. [photo G. Aiston from SARCA Virtual Museum]


The Spotted bush snake can be identified by its black speckling, its gold or orange irises, a blue tongue with a black tip, an expert climbing ability and a diurnal lifestyle. It grows to an average length of 90 cm and a maximum length of 1.3 meters.  

Distribution and habitat

Widespread, with the distribution in southern Africa including eastern Namibia, the Caprivi strip, a large portion of Botswana, all of Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique, Swaziland and north east South Africa and  KwaZulu-Natal. It favours a variety of  habitats from rivers banks to lowland forest and even residential gardens (in KwaZulu-Natal particularly).


Eats lizards (particularly geckos and chameleons) and frogs.

Predators, parasites and disease

Eaten by other snakes (particularly vine snakes), birds of prey (particularly secretary birds and snake eagles).


Oviparous (egg-laying), lays between 3 and 12 eggs in midsummer.


Likely to have an average lifespan of 10 years.

Medical importance

Non-venomous and not dangerous to man.



  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.

  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishing, Cape Town.