Golden Tree Snake

Chrysopelea ornata is a colubrid snake found in South and Southeast Asia. It is, along with the other species in its genus Chrysopelea, very unusual in that it is capable of a type of gliding flight. It is also rear-fanged. Currently, three subspecies are recognized, including the typical form described here. The snake's striking looks and capability of gliding make it a popular choice for captivity.

Chrysopelea ornata is usually green in color, with black cross-hatching and yellow or gold colored accents. The body, though slender, is far less so than in other tree snakes. It has a flattened head with constricted neck, a blunt nose and large eyes with round pupils.

The lateral, sharp and pronounced keeled condition of the ventrals in association with the normal, not enlarged, vertebral row of scales distinguish this snake.

The snakes rarely exceed 40 inches (1.0 m) in length, the smallest being measured at 115 millimetres (4.5 in) and the largest being 1,360 mm (4 ft 5½ in) long. The tail is about one-fourth of the total length.

Chrysopelea ornata has two major colour forms, which are largely determined by geographic locality, and their descriptions are given below:

  • In Sri Lanka and the southern extent of its Indian range, the snake is primarily greenish yellow or pale green. Each scale has a black mesial streak or spot, and is more or less edged with black. The snake also has dark crossbars at intervals. A series of large, flower-shaped, reddish or orange vertebral spots may be present or absent. Ventrals greenish, outside the keel edged with black or spotted. Head black with vellow crossbars and spots. The flower-shaped spots are commoner in Sri Lanka than in south India.
  • The second colour variety which occurs in Southeast Asia lacks the reddish vertebral spots, and has less prominent black crossbars.
Common names:
  • English - golden tree snake, gliding snake, ornate flying snake, golden flying snake, gold and black tree snake, flying tree snake
  • Urdu - kala jin.
  • Sinhala - pol-mal-karawala, mal karawala.
  • German - gelbgrüne Schmuckbaumnatter, gewöhnliche Schmuckbaumnatter.