Primarily found in the South Eastern United States, the corn snake is a colorful, popular pet snake adored for its docile nature. The corn snake derives its name from corn farms where most farmers first spotted them. The reptiles have a corn-like pattern on their belly that resembles the kernel pattern found on maize.
Corn snake morphs were introduced to the market after years of selective breeding. The variation in patterns and colors is the result of combining recessive genes with dominant genes over and over again. Every year, breeders create new morph variations as they gain a better understanding of the genetics involved.
The resultant color variation that arises when corn snakes are bred leads to the creation of morphs. Over a hundred variations of corn snake morphs have emerged due to selective breeding carried out by most commercial breeders. Some morphs occur naturally, and breeders create their own corn snake morphs by cross-breeding different morphs.
Here is what you need to know when buying, breeding, or learning about corn snake morphs:
What is a corn snake morph?
A corn snake morph is a genetic mutation leading to the corn snakes looking different from the standard expectation. Corn snake morphs are created through breeding corn snakes with different colors. This kind of breeding has been used to create beautiful color variations that are available for different prices.
Regular corn snakes have two predominant colors, usually black and red. The most common colors corn snakes have depends on whether the snake is:
- Normal: Corn snakes with both red and black
- Amelanistic: exhibit a typical pattern of orange dorsal saddles and lateral blotches, but the black borders around these marks are replaced with white skin
- Anerythristic: Also known as Anery, this is a mutation that lacks or reduces red pigmentation. They are primarily black or white in color.
- Hypomelanistic: These are corn snakes with a lessened black pigmentation that often seems anywhere between chocolate and completely disappearing.
- Piebaldism: This is an abnormal pigmentation that results in the appearance of white blotches in different sizes that may replace a corns normal coloring.
- Lavender: They often have a pinkish purple-gray pattern against a gray or pale white background.
- Caramel: A caramel color mutation heightens a yellow pigmentation and has a striking absence of orange and red. It results in snakes with caramel or cream pigmentation.
- The snow corn: These are corn snakes with neither black nor red color. They have a pale pinkish shade with a hint of a pattern or none at all.
Other factors may dilute or enhance the corn snake colors, which results in corn snakes with lighter or darker colors, such as the okeetees or ‘ghost’ corns.
Corn snake Genetics
Two primary colors are responsible for the different corn snake morphs: red and black. The standard corn snake genotype is denoted as RRBB. The RR refers to the gene responsible for the red color and the BB gene for black. More than two genes can be involved, and this gene treatment is used to determine the offspring of corn snake mating.
The inheritance of the genes is not linked, which is what leads to the different colors. These include the amelanistic, anerythristic, and snow corn variations. If you are a snake breeder and are looking to breed your own kind of corn snake morph, learning more about their genetics will help you figure out what to expect when breeding the different corn snakes.
The different color and pattern variations are based on the Punnet Square. The square looks at the two parents’ genetic makeup, considering both the dominant and recessive genes in the parents. The National Science Teaching Association has an exercise that shows how the Punnet Square is calculated using the genetic traits of corn snakes and finding out what types of morphs can be created by breeding different morphs.
How to identify corn snake morphs
An easy way to identify corn snake morphs is by determining how each gene affects the color and pattern of the corn snake. The difference in corn snake morphs depends on the color mutation and rarely the pattern mutation. Sometimes, morphs combine both the color and pattern mutation, but these are rare occurrences. These corns tend to be more expensive.
How many corn snake morphs are there?
There are over 830 documented corn snake morphs. This number only refers to those that have been bred in captivity. While most corn snakes are selectively bred for their beauty, there are more naturally occurring morphs in the wild that haven’t yet been documented. Color morphs are typically more common than pattern morphs.
25 Top Corn Snake Morphs
There are over 800 corn snake morphs that have been documented. These morphs range from the most common morphs to the rarest and everything in between.
Normal/ Classic/ Carolina
The Normal corn snake is the basis of comparison for all corn snakes. They are available in orange with black lines running around red saddle marking all over their backs and black and white checkered bellies. It also has the typical shape, number of saddles, and regular scale shape. It is essential to know how a ‘normal’ corn snake looks to identify a color mutation easily. These color mutations reduce, enhance, or remove pigments, while the pattern mutation may change the shape or number of the saddles or change the scales’ size and shape.
The belly of a Normal corn snake has a white/tan ground color with black checkers. Some may have orange mixed in. their eyes are typically red or orange with a black pupil. The corn snake may develop a yellow color on their sides as they age.
Okeetees are very similar to the Normal corn snake, with a minor difference occurring in the saddle banding thickness. Okeetees have an average saddle of 1.25-2.5 scale thickness, with extreme okeetees having up to 3+ scale thickness.
Their medium color is a medium brown or deep orange. They have a deep red or burnt orange dorsal blotch with black margins.
While most Okeetees have been captured for breeding, some are still left in the wild, although the numbers are significantly depleted due to over-collecting.
The Reverse Okeetee has a unique and vibrant color pattern and is a variation of albino corn morphs. They have bloodred eyes and a light, peach base color, and their patterns range from orange to a pale, off-white color. Their color deepens as they mature and get more vibrant the older they get.
The reverse okeetee doesn’t have okeetee genes and is bred selectively bred. They are bred for their thicker bands and brighter red saddles. They are hard to find and go for about $85 – $100.
Key locality corn snakes, also known as “rosy rat snakes,” derived their name from where they were initially found, the keys of Southern Florida. They resemble the hypomelanistic corn snake. They lack checkers or have hypo-looking bellies with altered checkers. The morphs are lighter in color compared to the normal corn snake and have orange saddles and tan ground colors. Keys don’t have saddle borders or very thin borders.
This morph is named after the area in Florida where they are most found, Miami Dade. The Miami morph has silver ground colors with orange or red saddles with thin or no saddle borders. Lately, however, breeders have been selectively breeding the corn snakes to have thicker borders.
An interesting fact about this morph is that they prefer to eat lizards rather than rodents because of where they live. Sometimes this makes it hard for them to feed on rodents when in captivity. Another curious fact about this morph is that some people do not consider it so. While some think the snake’s traits can be inherited, others do not agree. For this reason, breeders aren’t really interested in them; hence they can be bought at prices as low as $50.
This type of corn snake doesn’t have melanin. The Amel doesn’t have a dark pigment of any kind but has red and yellow pigments. Hatchlings are usually white with orange saddles, but they may develop an orange ground color with red or darker orange saddles as they grow older. Their eyes are generally red or orange with a bright red pupil. Amel corn snakes have white bellies with clear, orange, or yellow checkers, which can be hard to see without the right light.
Anerythristic/ Anery/ Anery- A
These are corn snakes without the red pigment in their skin. Anery corns don’t have the red or orange colors on them and often lack the yellow too. Hatchlings have a white ground color with black saddles and have grey or light blue eyes with black pupils. Adult Anery corns have greyer ground colors with ‘browned out’ saddles because the black has faded/isn’t as prominent. They usually have white bellies with black checkering and might have a bit of yellow within the checkers.
This morph looks like the Anerys and removes the red and most of the yellow coloring. The difference between Anery-A and Anery-B is the ground color, with the color for the charcoal being a much darker grey and the saddles remaining black. Their eyes are usually dark grey with black pupils. They rarely develop yellow pigmentation and stay with white bellies and black checkers as they age.
This type of the anery morph doesn’t completely reduce the red and retains some of the red in their saddles. They have a higher saddle count and have black pupils with black and blue spotted irises. Cinder morphs tend to have a slender body and are more pricey compared to other morphs at about $85 or more.
Bloodred morph/ Diffused
These are selectively bred diffused corn snakes that are made to be as bloodred as possible. The Bloodreds are diffused snakes combined with Red Coat, masque, Red Factor, or a blend of all. These corn snakes have no pattern on their sides and no checkers on the body.
One of the morphological variations is the ghost bloodred that, quite like the name, has a ghost-like appearance due to its faded and light colors. It has a gray/tan color pattern with a subtle hint of red in the darker areas.
Red coats originally had an increased intensity of the color in classics and amels. New morphs were created when breeders mixed them with Anerys. This cross-breeding was proven to increase the intensity of the color of the corn they were bred with. They increase the vibrancy of all pigments. Red coat Anerys are very dark with a very bold black coor, and the red coat amels are very red and orange.
Caramels have high yellow colors with no red and more yellow pigmentation. It is considered to replace Erythrin so that any areas that would have been red are yellow instead. Hatchlings are a yellow/brown color with white bellies and black checkers. As they mature, they turn into more caramel color, and sometimes the checkers can have a yellow mixed in. their saddles are a darker yellow, and their eyes are also yellow with black pupils.
Hypomelanistic/ Hypo/ Hypo-A
These are corns with less than normal melanin. The lack of enough melanin gives them brown, grey, or tan saddles and belly checkers. Their eyes are usually orange with a black pupil. Lighter shades of hypos have deep ruby pupils, especially babies, but they outgrow the color as they age. The lighter hypos have white or tan bellies with tan or grey checkers with bits of yellow sometimes seen in the checkers. The red is sometimes dulled a bit because of the gene mutation that comes off as orange.
The toffee morph mutation was first discovered in European snake collections. It is not clear whether they have the same genetic mutation as Buf, another European morph. They are both very rare in the US market. The snake is a hyporythristic morph (it reduces the red pigmentation) that reduces red pigmentation. The Buf have white saddles with tan ground colors and black saddle borders, and belly checkers.
It is a single pattern mutation that creates a spotted pattern along the body of the snake. Motleys are a pattern morph, not a color morph. The pattern can be in the form of a spotty pattern of dark lines along the spine and belly scales sides. There is also lateral blotching which may appear as dashes.
Motleys have a hypo-effect which can affect the color morphs it is mixed with. Their bellies have no checkers, and their eye color reflects the type of morph combined with it.
Palmetto snakes have the only leucistic gene in corn snakes. Their eyes are blue with ruby pupils, and their overall color is stark white. They may have tiny dots of color throughout their bodies. The dots and eye color depend on the color morphs they are mixed with. Amel palmettos have red irises and pupils with red or yellow flecking, while regular palmettos have flecking of all colors: red, yellow, and black.
These have a unique single gene mutation of all. Their mutation removes all yellow pigment and much of the red and black pigments, leaving them with a purple/grey color. They have purple hues, and their eyes have a ‘night sky’ appearance with ruby pupils. Their saddle and ground colors don’t have much contrast and appear to have thin or no saddle borders.
Their hatchlings have a more peach color with a tan ground color, but the peach fades within the first year. Their bellies are white with light purple or grey checkers. Although they might resemble charcoal corns when combined with other mutations, lavenders usually retain more pink coloration than the charcoal morph.
This type of corn snake morph is only found in diffused morphs. The diffused nature prevents the snake’s color from reaching the belly. The color starts from the spine and develops downwards, and they usually have white patches on their sides. The most desirable pied snakes are those with more white on their sides.
The color patches are known as “expressions.” Low expressions have fewer patches of white near the belly; mid-expressions have a moderate amount of the patches, while high expressions have almost completely white sides and are more desirable than the low expression morphs.
The Stripe is a single pattern mutation that turns the typical side pattern into long stripes along the body’s length. Stripes also have a hypo effect on the color morphs they mix with, meaning that most Stripes can appear hypo even when they aren’t. Their eye color depends on the color morph they are mixed with.
Stripes can have one light stripe down the center of their backs that are about 4 inches thick with two darker stripes on each side with 1-2 scales thickness. They usually have blank side and belly patterns. Particular Stripes can have dark patches near their tail’s end, which appear as cubes or reverse-stripe.
Terrazzo corns have a recessive gene mutation. The gene originated from the Keys lines and has similar coloring to Key corns. Their features look like the stripe and tesserae corns, although it is a different mutation. Terrazzo has a hypo look with a broad, aberrant stripe that disappears at the tail. They have a grainy-looking pattern consistency. Their bellies have no checkers, and their eye color depends on the color morph they are mixed with.
Tesserae corns have a single dominant gene mutation. This mutation is based on the pattern. They are known for the “tessellations” that appear on their sides. They have one of the most varied pattern mutations in the world. Tesserae bellies range from entirely black with checkers to no checkers at all. They usually have a stripe along the spine; it can either be a complete stripe or a stripe with frequent breaks. Their eyes take the color of the mutation they are mixed with. Normal tesserae’s eyes look like those of the Normal corn snake.
Sunkissed is a unique recessive gene mutation that affects both the color and pattern. The mutation fades the blacks into greys and brightens the reds. Sunkissed corns have round and more evenly spaced saddles. Most of them have ruby pupils with red or orange irises. Some species don’t have the ruby pupils or the melanin fade and look like the Normal corn snake, although it is a rare occurrence.
Yet another unique pattern morph is found in the scaleless corn snake morph. They are rare and more expensive than most of the other snakes. This morph is a hybrid of a Great Plains Rat snake and an ordinary snake.
These corns don’t have any scales on their bodies. Some of them retain their belly scales and may keep scales on their faces and randomly on the rest of their bodies. The lack of scales highlights their natural color patterns.
The rarest of all morphs, the eyeless corn snakes are a proven gene. They are born with no eyes but still live comfortably and are beautiful pets. These morphs are mostly put down because breeders don’t want to perpetuate what they see as a negative mutation.
Best Corn Snake Morphs
Pet snake owners determine the best corn snake as those with the most beautiful colors and patterns. These corn snake morphs are also the most popular of the lot. Below is a list of the five best corn snake morphs:
Striped corn snakes
Striped corn snakes come in a variety of colors. The common feature among them is the clear, distinct dorsal Stripe that runs along the length. The best colors are those with more apparent stripes on a dark background, like cinder or charcoal stripe corns.
Topaz motley corn snake
This is a beautiful combination of the topaz and motley corn snake morphs. These corns have a yellow or amber pattern with a white or cream color underneath. They look similar to caramel corns but are set aside by the motley morph, which creates clear patches instead of the usual saddles.
These are some of the most beautiful morphs available. They are entirely white and have red eyes. They may develop faint greenish margins around their blotches as they get older and may develop yellow checkers on their bellies.
This morph contains one of the rarest color morphs that makes these corns appear purplish with a pink base color and lavender blotching. They are a nice variation to the normal morph and ones to look out for.
Buck Skin Okeetee
This morph takes on a pattern similar to the Normal corn. One of its most distinguishing features is its black and white checkered underbelly. The underbelly, combined with the burnt orange and light desert sand tan patterns, make it a beautiful corn snake.
Corn Snake Morphs to Avoid
Generally, there aren’t any corn snakes with adverse health issues that you should be keen to avoid. Breeders may sometimes engage in selling corn snakes that are too young, too thin due to hunger, and kinked. Breeding bloodred corn snakes more times than is ethically allowed is likely to impair the health of a corn snake. For this reason, it is essential to get your corn from a reputable breeder. Corn snakes are all generally peaceful creatures that only attack out of anger or fear.
It would be best if you took a few measures to ensure your corn snakes are comfortable and less likely to strike. These measures include:
- Make sure your corn is well-fed at all times. Hungry corns can strike out and bite when they are hungry.
- Keep them isolated. Corn snakes can be cannibals, especially when put in the same enclosure as other corn snakes. Keeping them in different enclosures eliminates the risk of cannibalism.
- Take good care of their health, especially if your corn has health issues, such as albinism or eyelessness. Paying close attention to their needs ensures they are comfortable and aren’t inclined to hurt others or themselves.
- Secure the enclosure. Corn snakes love to explore and may escape if the enclosure isn’t properly secured. Ensure your snake’s enclosure is closed correctly and tightly secured
Corn snake morphs are a delight to every pet owner. Not only are they docile in nature, but their color and pattern variations are one of their most attractive features. They are the best pet snakes for beginners and seasoned pet snake owners alike. Do you have a favorite corn snake morph?