This is a small, golden-brown skink that grows to a maximum snout-vent length of 2.2 in. (57 mm) and a total length of 5.7 in. (146 mm). The body scales are smooth, shiny, and overlapping. The back is tan to golden-brown, with a narrow, dark brown stripe on each side. The belly is pale cream to light gray, with lighter areas on the chin and at the waist. The tail breaks off easily when the skink is captured or threatened by a predator. Regenerated tails are light brown. No other Virginia lizard has the transparent window in each eyelid. Unlike lizards in the genera Eumeces and Ophisaurus, female ground skinks do not remain with their eggs after laying. This skink is terrestrial.
This species is widely distributed in the coastal plain and piedmont of Virginia. Only one population has been found in the blue ridge region. It inhabits hardwood and mixed hardwood forests, living in the leaf litter on the forest floor. It may somtimes be found in urban woodlots, grasslands, and pine forests.
Ground skinks forage under leaves and in grass for small invertebrates. Specimens from Virginia had eaten wood boring beetles, wood roaches, ants, leafhoppers, butterfly larvae and adults, unidentified spiders, and isopods.