Psammophis crucifer (DAUDIN, 1803)

Common Names E: Cross-marked; Montane Grass Snake
G: Quergebänderte Sandrenn-Natter 
Synonym Coluber crucifer DAUDIN 1803: 189
Psammophis crucifer — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1854: 892
Psammophis crucifer — LOVERIDGE 1936: 39
Psammophis crucifer — FITZSIMONS & BRAIN 1958
Psammophis crucifer — BOYCOTT 1992
Psammophis crucifer — BROADLEY 2002 
Distribution Republic of South Africa, E Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique (Chimanimani Mountains)

Not precise localities!

Type locality: "Indes orientales."

Comment Characterized by a cross-shaped marking on the head. Seldom exceeds 2 feet in length; egg-laying; diet mainly of small lizards; apparently preyed upon by other snakes and birds of prey.

Description.—(80 specimens examined) Nostril pierced between 2 nasals; preocular 1, widely separated from frontal; postoculars 2 (very rarely 3); temporals basically 2+2+3, but with frequent fusions; supralabials 8 (rarely 7 or 9), the fourth & fifth (rarely third & fourth or fifth & sixth) entering orbit; infralabials 9 (rarely 10), the first 4 (rarely 5) in contact with anterior sublinguals; dorsal scales in 15-15-13 rows; ventrals 134-165; cloacal shield divided; subcaudals 68-91. TM 22369, an aberrant female from the Nyanga highlands, Zimbabwe, has only 117 ventrals and 47 subcaudals. Head grey, with a dark red-brown black-edged stripe extending from the snout, dividing on the frontal and again on the parietals, in each case enclosing a grey centre, continuing on the body as a black-bordered three scale wide dorsal stripe, this is separated by a thin white line from a grey dorsolateral stripe on scale rows 4, 5 and 6. A dark grey-brown lateral stripe covers scale rows 2 and 3 and the upper half of the outer row, the lower half being white. Pre- and post-oculars white, supralabials, chin and throat white, blotched or speckled with black. Ventrum orange with a broken black lateral line. South African specimens usually have one or two dark crossbars intersecting the vertebral stripe on the nape to form the “cross” from which the species derives its name, these crossbars are missing in specimens from Zimbabwe and KwaZulu-Natal. Some South African specimens are uniform grey above and pinkish white below [from BROADLEY 2002].
Diet Interesting note: in a post on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/snakesofsouthafrica/permalink/10154706157281043/?comment_id=10154707622351043&reply_comment_id=10154707655681043&notif_t=group_comment&notif_id=1483569085493804) Trysie Schoerie published some pictures of a P. crucifer eating a common slug eater, giving evidence that at least in this case ophiophagy occurred.

Picture by André Cilliers, rescued specimen, Sout-Africa

Picture by André Cilliers, rescued specimen, Sout-Africa

Cor Viljoen, rescued specimen, South Africa, province Gauteng

Cor Viljoen, rescued specimen, South Africa, province Gauteng

Cor Viljoen, rescued specimen, South Africa, province Gauteng

Helmo van der Schyff

Found in the Simons Town area, South Africa.

Bryan Dhudhlu, FB-group Snakes of South Africa, 2015


  • Boycott, R.C. 1992. An Annotated Checklist of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Swaziland. The Conservation Trust of Swaziland, 1992; online at http://www.sntc.org.sz/checklst/sdreptam.html.
  • Branch, W.R. 1992. Life History Notes - Psammophis crucifer Jour. Herp. Ass. Afr. (41): 43-43 - get paper here
  • Branch, William R. 1993. A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 144 S.
  • Broadley, D.G. 1959. The herpetology of Southern Rhodesia. Part I--the snakes Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 120 (1): 1-100 [reprint 1972] - get paper here
  • Broadley, D.G. 1977. A review of the genus Psammophis in southern Africa (Serpentes: Colubridae). Arnoldia 8 (12): 1-29
  • Broadley, D.G. 2002. A review of the species of Psammophis Boie found south of Latitude 12° S (Serpentes: Psammophiinae). African Journal of Herpetology 51 (2): 83-119 - get paper here
  • Broadley,D.G. 1962. On some reptile collections from the North-Western and North-Eastern Districts of Southern Rhodesia 1958-1961, with descriptions of four new lizards. Occ. Pap. Nat. Mus. South. Rhodesia 26 (B): 787-843
  • Daudin 1802. Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière des Reptiles. vol. 7. Paris: Dufart [1802], 436 pp.
  • Duméril, A. M. C., BIBRON, G. & DUMÉRIL, A. H. A., 1854. Erpétologie générale ou histoire naturelle complète des reptiles. Tome septième. Deuxième partie, comprenant l'histoire des serpents venimeux. Paris, Librairie Encyclopédique de Roret: i-xii + 781-1536 - get paper here
  • FitzSimons, V.F.M. 1974. A field guide to the snakes of Southern Africa. 2nd edition. COLLINS, 221 pp. [first ed. 1970]
  • Fitzsimons, V.F.M.; Brain, C.K. 1958. A Short account of the Reptiles of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. Koedoe, 1(1): 99-104
  • Kirchhof, S., M. Krämer, J. Linden & K. Richter 2010. The reptile species assemblage of the Soutpansberg (Limpopo Province, South Africa) and its characteristics. Salamandra 46 (3): 147-166 - get paper here
  • Loveridge,A. 1936. African reptiles and amphibians in the Field Museum of Natural History. Zool. Ser. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Chicago, 22 (1): 1-122 - get paper here



Deon Oosthuizen, 21 mei 2016 FB. Psammophis crucifer. Kruismerksweepslang/Cross-marked Whip Snake. Location: Pringle Bay. This photograph was made by Helmo van der Schyff, and published in the Facebook group Snakes of South Africa. It was found in the Simons Town area in South Africa.


Picture by Andries Cilliers, unmarked specimen, rescued.

Size: up to 510 + 147 = 657 mm.

Habitat: Fynbos and grassland from sea level to montane grassland at 2300 m in South Africa, montane grassland in Zimbabwe


Paul: "A few months back I found three Eggs in the field, one was being eaten by ants and some beetle. I decided to take the remaining two. I was 90%sure what they were so today confirmed my suspicions.."
Januari 2017, Facebook group snakes of South Africa.