This is one of the most common salamanders in North America. It is a medium-sized species, 2.5 to 4.5 inches in length, with a laterally compressed and keeled tail and a light line from the eye to the jaw. The back is yellowish-brown to nearly black, often without a dorsal band. If the dorsal band is present then it has irregular edges or is limited on either side by dark-edged worm-like markings. The sides are usually without a series of small light dots. In courtship, the male applies the snout, cheeks, and mental gland to the snout of the female, who usually responds by picking up a spermatophore. The eggs are deposited in small compact clusters of 12-26, and cling to one another by extensions of the outer envelope. The eggs are found in June, July, and August, and are attended by the female. This species occasionally enters the water, but is largely terrestrial. It seldom wanders far from running or trickling water.
It is abundant in stream, springs, seepages in bottomland forests and wooded ravines throughout most of Virginia. It is rare in the ridge and valley region above 1200 feet elevation. This salamander inhabits a variety of habitats, both aquatic and semi-aquatic.
This species feeds primarily on small insects, spiders, isopods, centipedes and oligochaetes.