Friday, November 21, 2008

Ground Cover? I've got a snaky feeling about it!

Now you know why I avoid growing any ground-hugging plants in my garden .
What? You still didnt get the picture? Okay, first click on the photo to enlarge it, then look at that 'stick' propped up against the flat rock. Then look down to the left of the rock. Did you see it?
My own Rat Snake sun-bathing in the early morning light!
She was so big that when she decided to look for warmer spots, she took at least 5 minutes to pass that rock.
Okay, so I'm stretching facts a bit here but honestly, it seemed like 5 hours to me until I was sure she wasn't a Cobra.
Actually I'm still not sure, but this sounds better, doesnt it?

Rat Snakes are welcome here in my garden. They are fantastic at getting rid of pesky rats (bet you guessed it from her name, right?) and so must be saving me the trouble of putting out a lot of rat-traps, I'm sure.
And she really works hard for her dinner! I've seen her on top of a coconut tree (which is way over 30 feet tall, by the way) hunting for nesting birds or rats.
Much obliged, but don't you dare fall on my head, you hear me!

I'm not so happy about my garden playing host to Cobras, though. Yes, they're around and so are some Russell's Vipers. Both poisonous and doubly dangerous because the nearest hospital with anti-venom is a good hour or two away (or three, if you add Mumbai traffic to the equation). But they, or rather, their ancestors, have been here before I was born so I guess they've earned squatter's rights.

The next time you see any of my butterfly photos I hope you'll appreciate the fact that I'm running blindly behind them, not bothering to check if I'm stepping on a twig or a snake.
The things we do to get photos for our blogs!

I'm only half-joking because my snakes are basically well-behaved. When they hear me clumping around, they stay out of sight.
The Cobras are beautiful! They seem to pour themselves from one spot to the next, unlike the frantic zipping of the Rat Snake. The Vipers worry me though, because they dont move away. They just hunker down and hiss like a steam-engine when annoyed. Most of the time one doesnt even notice them because they blend so well with the landscape.

Now, if you think that I spot snakes every day in my garden, that's not true. Its only more like every other month.
I've even seriously considered turning my garden into a Snake Park, but with a couple of active dogs running around, the snakes have decided that the vacant plots of land nearby are much nicer hangouts. They visit and stay for dinner but don't live here. I think ... I hope...

Every once in a while, they leave their calling-cards. I wonder if this was from Cobra Junior ... there seems to be a fang-like thing attached to the skin (bottom right of the photo).

These papery bits always give me a jolt when I see them in places where my children run around. So I decided long ago that there will just not be any plants growing so low that any slithery being can hide in them.

As much as I like that lush, bountiful look of a garden brimming with plants and even more plants grown as ground cover, I'm sorry, but no way in my garden. And, I try to make sure that holes and gaps in the wall are quickly filled in before it looks like an invitation to come and stay awhile. The grass is cut low and it is so closely planted that even an ant would find it tough to move around in it.

Just about the only plant that has challenged me so far is the Gotu Kola. It's supposed to be such a powerful memory - enhancer that I'm reluctant to get rid of it (hey! I can use all the help I can get in that department) but the tiny little patch that I had planted has widened to cover a big corner of the lawn. Big enough to conceal serpentine dreams. Okay, I've got to trim that down. Sigh!

Low bushes are out of the question too. Unless they're planted far apart and annuals are planted in measly, thin rows. None of that voluptuous look for my flower-beds.

But having seen those photos, and imagining all those photos that I was too electrified to take, I'm sure you'll agree that I made the right choice, dont you?


  1. That snake skin is too cool! I would definitely NOT want cobras in my garden either.

  2. Sunita, Now I will moderate my complaints about deer in my garden thinking that, "It might be vipers."

  3. How about a mongoose?

  4. Oh boy, I don't know if I'd enjoy wondering if I had a cobra in my garden, whoa! I wouldn't mind the rat snake though as my little pests are still around. Thanks for sharing, Sunita

  5. I don't blame you Sunita. I realize that snakes serve a good purpose in the garden but I'm not crazy about them.

  6. Tina, cool? You sound like my son! He was nearly tagged by a cobra once but he still finds snake skin cool!

  7. Marta, I've always wondered why my friends on international gardening forums complained about deer. I thought "but thats Bambi!" ... until a goat entered our garden and made a meal of some of my precious plants! I understand, yes, I do. :)

  8. Mother Nature, that would be perfect, wouldnt it? Rikki Tikki Tavi is always on my mind everytime I spot a snake in my garden and I go to check whether the bathroom drains are still covered tight!

  9. Eric, you may not have the cobras but you have alligators dont you?Whoa! Much nastier!

  10. Racquel, you should've seen me when my kids were 5-6 years old! They would be running all over the garden and I would be like this hyper-mom from hell! But our dogs helped a lot... they would always be on guard.
    Of late I found another ally... the Pariah Kites (see my previous post A November Lullaby) They hunt snakes and eat them! I saw the nesting pair at it the other day. The female ( I think) was perched on the coconut leaf next to their nest and I heard this loud shrieking and when I looked, she had lifted off and the male was gifting her a baby snake in mid-flight ! Amazing!

  11. Passe lá no Blog do Clausewitz e conheça um pouco do Brasil. Abraço

  12. Whoa! I'd have freaked out big time, making such a racket! You were brave enuff to photograph it. I've also heard that Aloe Vera repels the snakes but not sure how true it is. May be you can give i a try in places where you don't want them. Besides Aloe Vera according to Indian belief wards off bad energies too.

  13. Chandramouli, bravery was not an issue at all. I was a good 30 feet, or more, away (which is why I couldnt get a clearer photo).
    About the Aloe Vera, I dont know, maybe the gel could be a repellant but the plant by itself definitely is not one.I know because I grow a lot of it and I've discovered snakes merrily traipsing in and around them.
    I was assured by my grandmother that snakes couldnt stand the Garlic Vine so I planted it near my house. Then I found that the cobra living next door uses its thicky creepers to climb in and out. Still, its flowers are pretty so its not a total loss! :)

  14. Clausewitz, I'm sorry but I had to use a translation site to understand you. I'll definitely take a look at your site but I hope the translation works well.

  15. Oh Sunita!! Now I'm having second thoughts about that fantasy I have of living somewhere tropical! I have snakes in the woods here, but COBRAS?! If I were you, I'd buy me some boots to wear in the garden...and maybe a...hmmm...helmet!

  16. Kim, every paradise has a resident snake doesnt it? Except mine has them in plural ;)
    If I were worrying about the Cobras, I think nothing but full armour would do.

  17. Hi Sunita.
    This is why I wear Wellies when I am out in my garden. But as of late, I have been wearing them and crawling down to go after macro targets! I know it sounds like a gormless government intitiative to increase spending on healthcare while reducing taxes for reducing taxes for cigarettes and alcohol.

    Thanks for dropping by in my blog. You have good blog with lots of readable content. And I promise to come back.

  18. Some brave peope out there in the gardens! I've seen one black snake in the garden in Tasmania years ago - still giving me complex!

  19. Gallicissa, sorry to burst your bubble, but your Wellies arent going to be much help when you're head-to-head with a Viper, dont you think? ;D
    And come back soon. At least to find out who's been evicted in the War of the Garden.

  20. Klaraau01, at least now you know that Phalaenopsis arent the only things you find in India, eh?
    Black Snakes are poisonous arent they? Welcome to the club!

  21. Sunita we have one native snake here and it is a grass snake and said to be the world's smallest snake. Recently two phytons were loose some where out here, they have caught one and the other is still out there. I last heard that it was moving north in my direction and I do hope that it turns around and go back whence it came. These snakes were pets and then set loose by the owners who had become bored with them. I just wish that the authorities ban the importation of these reptiles that are not native to the island.

  22. Though I absolutely detest these slithy's,on reading your blog,I feel they might be not so bad after all...

  23. You have a beautifully written blog. Apart from the orchids, butterflies and the wasp, I like your sense of humour. I fell out of my chair laughing reading your posts.

    PS : Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog...Thomas

  24. Islandgal, I really hope everyone living in that python's path know that its on the loose. Imagine looking around from a nice daydream and looking straight at a very irate python!
    I totally agree with you about the ban on importing non-native snakes for sale as pets. In fact, I'm not too keen on them being sold as pets at all.

  25. EagleEye, that's one of the nicest things I've ever read about any of my posts. Thank you!
    I'm sure Freud would've had umpteen theories why we we feel our bones turn to water when we spot a snake. But,I sometimes think that it is the very rarity of the occurence that prompts this fear.
    No, they're not so bad... so long as they stay away from me and mine. We have a deal, you know. They stay on their side and I stay on mine. Or rather, the side where they are is where I'm not! Simple!

  26. Thanks, Thomas. Well, I'll just have to make sure you stay off that chair, wont I? Just so you'll go off and get some more of those absolutely stupendous photos of birds instead :)

  27. Hi Sunita,
    I am having trouble keeping up with all the blogs I like to read! I'm glad I made it here, because my son, who is now 30, has been a reptile lover since he was a boy, so that makes me sympathetic to the creatures. We had a number of pet snakes and lizards in our house, including one or two rat snakes. He also had corn snakes, relatives of the rat snakes.

    Our yard has a lot of areas the garter snakes like to inhabit. It is safe for them here. I may scream if startled by one when turning my compost pile, but have learned to watch for them so I won't be startled. If they are seen by either of our neighbors, they better retreat to here fast, or they will be killed. Those neighbors should be glad your snakes aren't in their yards!

    Keep safe!

  28. Reading your post makes me very thankful that we generally have very small, harmless snakes in our garden :)
    In all my years of living in Australia, where they have numerous poisonous snakes, I never came face to face with any dangerous ones, but my husband encountered a black snake or two while at work.
    I like your attitude about your slithery visitors...all God's creatures, right? :)

  29. Sue! Did your son have them running around loose in your house or were they in cages? I wonder whether I would ever be such an accomodating mother.

  30. Kerri, I vaguely remember the black snake from one of Steve Irwin's shows (that guy was amazing, wasn't he?). Your husband must've got a real start when he met them!
    I'm quite relaxed about the snakes in my garden now but I still worry when my children are playing outside. My son was nearly tagged by a cobra when he went to collect a ball which had rolled near some low orchid benches. The snake was lying under the bench and gave a half-hearted swipe which luckily missed him. That really shook me. Now I've raised those benches by a couple of bricks so that I can easily see what's under them.

  31. LOL, Sunita,
    My son's snakes and other critters were indeed in cages, but he got them out to handle them so they would be used to being handled. He would get invitations to speak at schools and at our local museum. He was the youngest to participate in "Sunday Afternoon with the Scientists".

    I started out being able to look at the snakes while in the cages, then being in the room with one out, then touching one, and worked my way to being able to hold one. Now that it's been so long, I think I'm back to being able to touch one of someone else is holding it.

  32. Wow! So did he do anything further with this interest?
    I must admit you're very brave. Okay, hold on, I keep thinking of all snakes being poisonous and I know they're not. So... if it's a non-poisonous snake maybe (just maybe) I would be okay with it wandering around inside in my home.
    (What am I saying???)
    I know this fear of snakes is mainly a mind-set that you've got to learn to get over but its so deeply ingrained in us that its not easy.
    My wariness of them has mainly to do with my protective instincts. I know that there are very poisonous snakes in my garden and I know that my children are not always careful of where they put their next step. So...


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