Guest Post: Northern Red-Bellied Snake

In spite of being originally from Appalachia, I have been neglecting it here, due to lack of photos. This week, Sara Bean has stepped in to help fill that gap with a species from her backyard. Sara is a fantasy, nature, and fantastical-nature artist from West Virginia. Along with her photography, she creates whimsical sculptures and paintings that are a mix of surreal and adorable. Her monsterized paintings are a creepy delight to behold. You can find her work at The Attic Studio.   — Bethany

Whether grubbing around in my flowerbeds or wandering through the woods, the snake I encounter most often is the Northern Red-Bellied Snake.

Northern Red-Bellied Snakes. Photo by Sara Bean
Northern Red-Bellied Snakes. Photos by Sara Bean

Although my trusty Audubon guide states that these snakes range from 8 to 16 inches in length, most of those that I find are on the smaller end of that range. When born (via live birth), these little critters measure just 3 to 4 inches long.

Red-Bellied Snake. Photo by Sara Bean
Baby Northern Red-Bellied Snake. Photo by Sara Bean

As the name suggests, Northern Red-Bellies (henceforth referred to as NRBs) typically have vivid red bellies — with an occasional yellow or grey-bellied snake thrown into the mix to confuse matters. The dorsal side of their bodies can range widely in color from red-brown to dark grey, either plain or with one to five dark stripes. Their heads are typically dark, with three pale yellow-brown spots on the back of the neck. Sometimes the spots fuse to form a collar or ring, causing some amateur herpetologists confuse NRBs with the more common Ringneck snake.

Red-Bellied Snake and Ringneck Snake. Photo by Sara Bean
Northern Red-Bellied Snake and Ringneck Snake Comparison. Photos by Sara Bean

NRBs prey on garden pests like slugs (gardeners rejoice!) as well as earthworms and other small invertebrates. They are benign and easily handled, seldom displaying any signs of alarm or distress when picked up. If they do feel threatened they’ll curl their upper lip in what looks suspiciously like a sneer of disdain, or assume a pose that makes them look like a very tiny adder. As they’re so tiny and cute, this display is not very convincing to snake enthusiasts. Luckily it does work on some predators, as a wide variety of wildlife from shrews to raccoons to birds of prey find NRBs quite tasty.

Northern Ringneck Snake. Photo by Sara Bean
Northern Red-Bellied Snake. Photo by Sara Bean

Post by Sara Bean.

Guest Post: Tulsi

In spite of its focus on a single region of a single country, Overlooked Nature has a surprisingly international readership. So, to take advantage of my viewers’ wide-ranging knowledge, I’m introducing a new monthly-ish feature: International Featured Creatures! My first guest blogger is Anand from blabberwockying!, one of the most prolific, upbeat, and friendly bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. — Bethany


Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as Ocimum sanctumholy basil, or Tulsi, is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae which is native to the Indian subcontinent and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Southeast Asian tropics. It is an erect, many branched subshrub, with tall and hairy stems and simple green or purple leaves that are strongly scented.

The word Tulsi literally means “The Incomparable One.” Tulsi is one of the most used plants in Hindu Indian families. Hinduism has a great respect for this plant and it has been revered in scriptures and mythologies for at least last 5000 years. The leaves of this plant are used to worship deities.The stalks and branches of this plant are used in sacrificial fire rituals called Homams which purify the environment. They are also used to prepare beads of rosaries which are used to wear around the necks and also for chanting by devotees.

In Ayurveda, Tulsi is known as elixir of life, as it promotes longevity. It’s an adaptogen and it balances various processes in body. It’s consumed in various forms such as dried leaves, green leaves, powder, in herbal tea and in many cuisines. Thai cuisine uses it under name Thai Holy Basil. Some researchers have claimed that Tulsi has the capacity to help patients fighting with cancer.

It’s also a deity called Vrinda, Vaishnavi, Haripriya, Rama and by many other names in Indian mythology. Vrindavan is a place of pilgrimage in North India which was named so because it had a lot of Tulsi groves in ancient times. The word Vrinda is for Tulsi and Van is for Woods–so this place got its name from the groves of Tulsi it had.

The two varieties of Tulsi leaves grown in Indian subcontinent have green and purple leaves. It has an astringent taste and a distinct aroma which is sweet. This plant is kept in almost every house and serving it is considered very auspicious in Indian tradition. Every worship and ritual among Hindus is incomplete without Tulsi, especially amongst Vaishnavites.

Some rights reserved. Photographer: Vinayaraj
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0) Some rights reserved. Photographer: Vinayaraj

Anand is a retired blogger who likes to write on mysticism, astrology, films and life.