Black snake (firework)

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Black snake and Pharaoh's serpent are two similar types of firework.

After being lit, both fireworks begin to smoke and spew out ash resembling a snake via an intumescent reaction. They stay on the ground and do not emit sparks, flares, any form of projectiles, or any sound, but may release smoke.

Sodium bicarbonate which produces carbon dioxide gas, and sugar forming carbon containing ash, are common chemicals used for the black snake demonstration.[1] Other sources report the contents as "a nitrated mixture of linseed oil and naphthalenes".[2]

The traditional "Pharaoh's serpent" version of this firework produced a more impressive snake, but its operation depended upon mercury (II) thiocyanate, which is no longer used because of its toxicity.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In a South Park episode, a dismembering firework accident prompts the state of Colorado to ban fireworks. Using a loophole in the ban, the mayor commissions a gigantic snake for the annual Fourth of July celebration, but moments upon ignition it nearly destroys the town and other parts of North America.
  • In episode 6 of the anime Kotoura-san, one of the main characters is seen burning a black snake while saying "the black snakes are all mine".


  1. ^ Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D. "Black Snakes or Glow Worms". 
  2. ^ "LISTSERV 15.0 - CHEMED-L Archives". Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  3. ^ Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D. (2011-05-12). "Pharaoh's Snake Firework or Chemistry Demonstration". Retrieved 2011-10-20.