This species is elongate and slender, reaching a length of 12 cm. There are 2 color phases, striped and unstriped. The striped phase is characterized by a narrow red stripe down the back, whereas the unstriped phase is uniformly dark. Reduced brassy pigmentation may be present on the dorsum of the unstriped phase. Lateral and belly pigmentation are black and white spots occur along the sides and the throat is light, but the venter is usually dark with variable amounts of white or yellow mottling. The eggs are probably deposited in a moist sheltered nest and are attended by the female, with hatching occurring in the late summer or early fall. A type of interaction exists between this species and P. cinereus which enables at least one of the species to affect the movements of the other.
This species is endemic to Virginia and exists entirely in the higher peaks of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia at elevations above 3000 feet. It presently occurs on 3 mountains including Hawksbill, Stony Man, and The Pinnacle. This species is confined to deep pockets of soil within the talus on the north and northwestern faces of these mountain ranges in mixed-conifer forest.
The food consists of insects and other invertebrates, including mollusks.