Variable Bush Viper – Everything You Need To Know

The Variable Bush Viper is a species of Viper that is native to Western and Central Africa. This venomous snake has a couple of common names including the Green Bush Viper and the Leaf Viper.

Although these snakes can vary greatly in color, there are currently no recognised sub-species of Variable Bush Viper.

Variable Bush Viper
Jim Wetherall, CC, via Flickr


The Variably Bush Viper belongs to the Viperidae family of snakes. This essentially means that they are a viper. Other popular families of snake include Elapids, Pythons and Boas.

They belong to the subfamily Viperinae which are regarded as the ‘True Vipers’ or ‘Pitless Vipers’. This subfamily is endemic to Europe, Asia and Africa and contains 13 genera of snakes.

They can be characterised by their lack of heat sensing pits while the closely related sub family of Pit Vipers (Crotalinae) have heat sensing pits.

Some of the other genera in the subfamily Viperinae include the Puff Adders, the Night Adders and the Saw-Scaled Adders.

The genus that the Variable Bush Viper belongs to is called Atheris. The Atheris genus consists of the Bush Viper species, all of which are native to sub-Saharan Africa.

There are currently 17 recognised species of Bush Viper. Some of the more commonly known species include the West African Bush Viper and the Rough Scaled Bush Viper.

There are currently no recognised sub-species of Variable Bush Viper. However, some literature refers to some of the different locales as sub-species. The scientific name for the Variable Bush Viper is Atheris squamigera.

Variable Bush Viper

Variably Bush Viper Description

The Variable Bush Viper is a relatively small species of snake that typically only grows to a length of 45cm-60cm. Females of this species are typically larger than males.

Like many species of Viper, they have a broad triangular shaped head that is very distinct from the neck. The scales on the body and head of the snake are heavily keeled.

The color of these snakes can vary greatly. Some regions will have different color variations of the snake while in other regions, you might only find a single color variation.

The base color of the snake can vary from different shades of green to olive, brown or even blue. You can even get color variations that are red, yellow or grey, but these are quite rare.

They often have thin layers of lightly colored scales that run the length of their body. This creates a nice contrast with the base color of the snake.

Natural Habitat and Distribution

The Variable Bush Viper can be found throughout much of Western and Central Africa. They have a large distribution with different color variations found throughout their range.

In the West, they can be found in countries such as the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria and down into Cameroon and Northern Gabon.

Their range extends Eastwards into Central Africa in countries such as the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is also an isolated population found in Kenya.

They share part of their geographical range with other common species such as the Gaboon Viper, African Fat Tailed Gecko, the Spiny Bush Viper and the Rhinoceros Viper.

The Variable Bush Viper prefers to live in humid rainforests where there is plenty of foliage. It is an arboreal species that can be found up to 6m off the ground.

Variably Bush Viper Venom

There isn’t a lot of information available about the venom of a Variable Bush Viper. There are two recorded deaths by these snakes but the real number is likely higher.

There is no antivenom available for this snake, or any species in the Atheris genus. However, the antivenom used for the genus Echis has proven to be partially effective at neutralizing Variable Bush Viper venom.