Vipera Aquatica: The Water Viper.
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,
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.