This is a small dark salamander reaching a total length of 2 1/2-3 1/8 in. (6.4-7.9 cm.). The dorsal surface is black with a profusion of dull golden or silvery blotches. There are a few golden flecks that extend down from the lateral surface. The belly may be solid black or black with white or gray spots. Courtship occurs in the fall and brooding of the eggs and young in the summer. Clutches of 4-13 eggs are laid in small cavities of rotting conifer logs and are attended by the female until shortly after hatching. Hatching occurs in the late summer.
In Virginia, this salamander is known from the higher elevations of only three Mountains: Whitetop, Mount Rogers, and Pine Mountain, at elevations from 4400 to 5729 feet in the Mount Rogers area. It is usually found in red spruce forests and not within 200 feet of water. Highest abundance seems to be correlated with abundant ground cover of rocks and downed wood. Rotting logs on the forest floor are known to be nest sites. Populations may be impacted in high elevation forests nearest the road to Whitetop due to overcollecting.
This species forages on wet, humid, nights for spiders, beetles, mites, and insect larvae.