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Plate Number: II 43

Vipera Aquatica: The Water Viper

Water Viper Plate Number: II 43

The back and head of this Serpent is brown, the Belly marked transversly with black and yellow alternately, as are the Sides of the Neck. The Neck small, the Head large, armed with the like destructive Weapons as the Rattle-Snake, which next to it is reckon'd the largest of any other Viper in these Parts; and contrary to most other Vipers are very nimble, and particularly dextrous in catching Fish. In Summer great Numbers of these Serpents are seen lying on the Branches of Trees hanging over Rivers, from which at the Approach of a Boat, they drop into the Water, and often into the Boat on the Men's Heads: They lie in this Manner to surprize either Birds or Fish, after these last they plunge, and pursue them with great Swiftness, and catch some of a large Size, which they carry on Shore and swallow whole: One of these Serpents I surprized swimming a Shore with a large Cat-Fish, of a different kind from that described Vol. II. p. 22, this having two sharp Bones, on each Side its Gills, which were so fixed in the Jaws of the Snake, that he could not disengage himself with all his Twists and Distortions, and in that Condition being in Danger of drowning, was necessitated to swim a-shore, where the Murderer was slain. This Serpent in Carolina commonly goes by the Name of the Water Rattle-Snake, not that it hath a Rattle, but many of them are very large, and coloured not much unlike the Rattle-Snake, and their Bite is said to be as mortal. They frequent Water, and are never seen at any great Distance from it. The Tail of this Viper is small toward the End, and terminates in a blunt horny Point, about half an inch long: This harmless little Thing hath given a dreadful Character to its Owner, attributing to him another Instrument of Destruction besides that he had before, imposing a belief on the Credulous, that he is the terrible Horn-Snake, armed with Death at both Ends, tho' in reality of equal Truth with that of the two-headed Amphisbaena; yet we are told, that this fatal Horn by a Jerk of the Tail, not only mortally wounds Men and other Animals, but if by Chance struck into a young Tree, whose Bark is more easily penetrable than in an old one, the Tree instantly withers, turns black and dies.

Frutex foliis serratis, floribus longioribus spicatis subviridibus, capsula pentagona

These Shrubs are usually slender in the main Stem, spreading into many pliant Branches, to the Height of about ten Feet, with thin Leaves set alternately, having their Edges finely serrated: The Flowers are tubulous, small, of a greenish white, with a Pointel reaching a little above the Verge of the Cup; they are closely set horizontally on one Side of the slender Stalks; these Flowers are succeded by round Berries, which when ripe open, dividing into five Sections, enclosing many small Seeds. They grow in moist Places in Carolina and Virginia.

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