Discover Maryland's Herps

Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles (Order Testudines)

Family Emydidae

Wood Turtle
Glyptemys insculpta

Photo of Wood Turtle courtesy of Linh Phu.
Photo of Wood Turtle courtesy of Linh Phu.


5 1/2 inches – 7 1/2 inches. Record: 8 inches


  • As its scientific name implies, the carapace (top shell) of this turtle is rough, looking like it has been carved from wood.

  • The growth rings (annuli) are very pronounced, giving the scutes their distinctive pyramidal shape.

  • The plastron (bottom shell) has no hinges and is creamy yellow with black blotches along the outer back corner of each scute.

  • The underside of the chin and legs are colored with bright yellow, orange or red. This gives the turtle its nickname, the "redleg" turtle.

  • Habitats

    Takes advantage of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, but always remains near water. On land, they may be found in a variety of usually forested habitats, but may be found in fields and meadows and wetlands. In aquatic areas, they prefer clear moving streams or rivers with gravel or hard-packed bottoms.

    How to Find

    Most active in the spring and fall, during its mating seasons. Especially like to bask on logs in streams and rivers with vegetated shorelines, or in woodlands with little cover, following emergence from hibernation.

    Photo of Habitat for Wood Turtle courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers.
    Photo of Habitat for Wood Turtle
    courtesy of Rebecca Chalmers.

    Distribution in Maryland

    May be found west of the Fall Line through the Piedmont and into Western Maryland; infrequently found in Prince George's and Charles Counties.

    Maryland Distribution for Wood Turtle

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    Maryland Amphibian
    and Reptile Atlas Project

    "A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

    For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

    The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.