Land Planarians

I’ve become intrigued by land planarians, such as the cosmopolitan Bipalium kewense (Shovel-headed Garden Worm), in part due to their weird alien appearance. Never seen one of these anywhere, and they seem not to have been reported in my region (Southwest US), perhaps because of the dry conditions here. Under what conditions have people found them? Are they nocturnal? Found on the surface (perhaps after rain), or maybe found under objects? Thanks for any insights.


On my encounters I have seen them crawling around during the day and under logs but in both cases the environment was moist. In the first case it had rained recently and the planarian was crawling across the trail on the soil and in the other cases the logs were in damp places.

The majority of the ones I have seen have been while flipping logs.


I saw them after a flooding near a river. They were crawling on the surface of a big rock in the still flooded meadow at night (yes, I went there at night with my rubber boots and a camera to have a look ;-D)

…that was in southern America however.

Edit: Just remembered. Found another one on moist soil at night, eating a woodlouse… as it was raining a lot those days, the soil was really wet


Many, many years ago while gardening, I found a critter that looked kind of like this in my patio (probably climate zone 15, but a very sheltered patio). This was along the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mt. foothills. There was an old fish pond that was host to many life forms. The fish often did not even bother to eat the fish food I gave them as there was other stuff in there they liked better.

This critter, flat worm like with a triangular head, was in the soil near the small waterfall; so a pretty moist area and also heavily shaded. I was excited and put it in a jar with a screw lid and set it nearby. I think I had to finish my gardening and clean up, so it was sometime later when I went out with the camera. It had already escape from the jar! I guess by sliding along the threading at the top of the jar? I was astonished.


I once four (presumably Bipalium kewense) while digging around in my garden in summer. I have never seen any other before or since.

In the news:


Yes! … with reference to iNat. That was the article that my wife showed me and got me thinking about these creatures.

Damp, under logs, lots of patience …

the stream I monitor is full of the little guys. they’re very cute, but I have no idea how to identify them past Phylum.

i found a few wandering broadhead planarians under logs and rocks in my yard (illinois) this past spring on a rainy day. they’re pretty weird looking! i havent seen any since then.

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I’ve only seen one once in Peru (, so I am not sure to what extent this can be generalized, but this one was on the forest floor at night in somewhat moist conditions. It retreated to the leaf litter when the light was pointed at it, but it did not require flipping debris and was not particularly inconspicuous.

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My only sighting was crawling on a walkway after some rain.

Welcome to the Forum, @larry216 :)

North Coast Dominican Republic, Mollusc-eating Hammerhead Worms come out during or after heavy rains. I also see another kind there which I fear may be the New Guinea Flatworm – it emerges under the same conditions.

When I was stationed in Hawaii I had my first sighting of a land planarian, and it was Bipalium kewense – it was on a rainforest trail in Manoa (so shady, humid conditions), and I observed it in the act of preying on an earthworm.

They really fascinate me too. By and large, I’ve seen them on the surface of the soil after rain, and likewise on footpaths/sidewalks after rain. Though just the other day I found one in my backyard underneath weed matting but on top of the soil.

At my home in North Carolina, I grow a fair number of plants in large pots because they don’t do well in the solid clay that exists in my yard. I can find planarians quite easily just by tipping a few pots and looking underneath them. Of course, they are regularly watered, so it is always damp underneath.



I was fortunate to see one just once, in the late 1980s. I was renting a place in the Berkeley hills (California), where it was often foggy. It was in a fairly lush garden (lots of exotics, a bunch of them in pots I think), which probably had water features. It was just kind of crawling along a leaf on a living plant, on a misty night. I think its head was even looming up in the air. Quite a vivid memory as you can see. I lived in California many years but that was the only time.

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I’m fortunate enough to have 3 observations of 3 different species of Geoplanidae:

The first two observations were taken at night time and all of them were found under some form of sheltered/shaded area, during relatively moist conditions.


One night on the Big Island of Hawaii I ran into this planarian. Before that I had only noticed planaria once before, the cute aquatic type, in a puddle in KY.

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