If you have ever been out walking and been startled by something in the corner of your eye that looks like a snake, only to find that it is a plant that vaguely resembles a snake, you may wonder what it is for the sake of avoiding future frights.
- 1. The California Pitcher Plant / Cobra Lily (Darlingtonia California)
- 2. The Jack-In-The-Pulpit (Arisaema Triphyllum)
- 3. The Griffith’s Cobra Lily (Arisaema Griffithii)
- 4. The Snakemouth Orchid (Pogonia ophioglossoides)
- 5. The Small Whorled Pogonia (Isotria medeoloides)
- 6. The Snake’s Head Dandelion (Malacothrix coulteri)
- 7. The Smaller Spreading Pogonia (Cleistesiopsis bifaria)
- 8. The Whipcord Cobra Lily (Arisaema Tortuosum)
You may be very surprised to learn that there are several plants that look like snakes and that snake plants do not look like snakes at all. If you have encountered a snake-like plant, you have found something truly interesting.
Let’s discuss and explore some of the plants that resemble snakes and how to identify them, which will hopefully prevent you from being startled the next time you see one.
Related: 9 Plants That Look Like Snake Plants
1. The California Pitcher Plant / Cobra Lily (Darlingtonia California)
The California Pitcher Plant, also commonly known as the Cobra Lily, is a carnivorous plant native to the Western United States and bears a striking resemblance to a reared snake.
This plant can reach up to 3ft tall, has very thick red-green leaves that grow vertically, and curl downwards at the end with a large flower that grows beneath it. The thickness of the vertical and curved leaves bears a resemblance to a reared snake, namely a cobra, which is why it is often referred to as a cobra lily, despite it not being a lily at all.
The California Pitcher Plant grows in serpentine soils in bogs and seeps with running water. This plant is perfectly adapted to living in soil with minimal nutrients, as it supplements its nutrient intake by consuming insects.
The pitcher plant usually grows in groups, but if you see one out of the corner of your eye while walking a trail in California, you would not be crazy to assume it is a snake at first glance.
This plant was also mentioned here: 7 Plants That Can Move
2. The Jack-In-The-Pulpit (Arisaema Triphyllum)
The Jack-In-The-Pulpit is also commonly called the Brown Dragon and is a species of perennial flowing plant in the family Araceae.
This plant is wide-ranging in eastern North America and has many variations that can make it challenging to identify.
The Brown Dragon grows up to 26” tall and typically grows three green leaves surrounding a brown-red hood containing the plants’ flowers.
The plant also bears small green berries and has a firm brown stem, and when walking past, it may appear like a rearing snake at first glance. The hood of the plant is quite large and resembles a snake head.
This plant is toxic if ingested and is best left alone when encountered.
3. The Griffith’s Cobra Lily (Arisaema Griffithii)
A similar species to the Brown Dragon is Griffith’s Cobra Lily. This plant is native to southern Asia and has a unique appearance.
This plant has a large spathe with flecks of green and purple that resemble snakeskin. This spathe spreads up to 8” and can easily resemble the spread hood of a snake.
The plant itself grows up to 24” tall and has a thick stem. It prefers very moist and humid environments and cold temperatures and grows well in partial shade. Enthusiasts often cultivate this plant in several countries, but it can be toxic if ingested.
4. The Snakemouth Orchid (Pogonia ophioglossoides)
The Snakemouth Orchid, also called the Rosebud Orchid, is an interesting little plant with a flower resembling a small snake’s open mouth.
The shape of the flow petals and internal structure looks like a wide-open snake mouth, where the flower gets its name.
The flower petals usually grow in threes in a triangle formation, with the rest of the flower protruding from the center. Green buds may accompany the flower on the stem. This flower grows from a thin green stem, which makes it look even more like a snake.
This plant is common in North America, from central Canada to the eastern United States. The Snakemouth Orchid prefers wet habitats and occurs in various colors, including white, pink, and purple.
5. The Small Whorled Pogonia (Isotria medeoloides)
The Small Whorled Pogonia is also commonly known as Little Five Leaves.
Little Five Leaves predominantly grows in the eastern United States, prefers a temperate climate, and is primarily found in forested areas. This little orchid is the rarest of all orchids found in the area.
The plant has five green leaves and sprouts a whorled flower in the center that resembles the head of a small snake. It grows less than 10” tall, and the flower itself is only around 0.8” in length.
This is a small pogonia, but if you were to stumble across one in the night, as it stands upright and has a small snake head-like flower, you might mistake it for a small snake on the trail.
6. The Snake’s Head Dandelion (Malacothrix coulteri)
The Snake’s Head Dandelion is a fascinating desert—dwelling dandelion. This plant is technically a herb and sprouts annually in its natural habitat of the southwestern United States. The Snake’s Head Dandelion is also common in South America, where it has been introduced.
This plant does not resemble a snake when it flowers, but the buds that it produces just before they open into flowers can look remarkably like a small snake.
The buds of the Snake’s Head Dandelion are broad and arrowhead-shaped like many desert vipers and have thick scale-like phyllaries that make it look very similar to certain snakes.
This dandelion produces white and pink flowers when they bloom and has multiple stems that can grow multiple buds per stem.
The stems are very similar to other dandelion stems but slightly thicker. This dandelion prefers desert and grassland environments with little available water and requires a thicker stem to store fluids and nutrients.
7. The Smaller Spreading Pogonia (Cleistesiopsis bifaria)
The Smaller Spreading Pogonia is a beautiful little plant from the family Orchidaceae. It is native to the eastern regions of the United States, ranging from West Virginia to Alabama along the Appalachian Mountains.
This plant is a type of orchid and resembles many others in the species. It has three main leaves that grow from just behind the flower bud, but the defining feature of this plant is that these leaves grow from the top and both sides of the bud, and never beneath it.
The flower bud points forward, away from the leaves, and causes the flower to have a reared snake appearance.
The Smaller Spreading Pogonia is a small plant that can resemble a small snake in the right situation.
8. The Whipcord Cobra Lily (Arisaema Tortuosum)
This plant looks unique among its genus but is another of the Araceae family resembling a hooded, reared snake. This plant has a large green leave that grows in a tube shape and curls over at the end.
Inside the leaf grows a flower that produces an almost 12” long spadix that grows vertically from the plant, giving the plant its name.
It produces clustered berries that begin green and ripens to red, and the plant prefers to grow in forests and meadows with plenty of rainfall. This plant is common in Myanmar, western China, and southern India.
The major defining feature of the thick plant compared to others in the family is that the Whipcord Cobra Lily can grow up to 6.5 feet tall. This means that it can easily be mistaken for a large snake rearing up if you catch it at the corner of your eye.
The Whipcord Cobra Lily is a beautiful, strong, green forest plant and usually grows in large clumps