The Poweshiek Skipper Project

Terrestrial Snails


 Vallonia pulchella (O.F. Müller, 1774)

Lovely vallonia

This is a very tiny snail.  The diameter of the shell is about 2 mm.  But it is a charming little creature.  The name "lovely vallonia" is apt.  This is one of the cutest snails out there.

I usually find this snail between loose bark and the wood on aging firewood.  It seems to be fairly common, at least in my yard but it is easily overlooked.  

The species seems to be widespread in the upper Midwestern and eastern states of the U.S.  Records for Iowa are spotty--Hubricht shows it in only three counties.  My photos would make four counties.  I suspect, however, that it is pretty widespread across the state.

Because this snail is so small and pale colored, my first assumption upon encountering it was that it was a recently hatched juvenile of another species.  That does not seem to be the case.  In fact there are a number of Vallonia species that are similar in size to this one.

Of the Iowa Vallonia species, only this species and V. exocentricia have smooth shells.  The others have fairly conspicuous ribs.

This snail is also found in Europe and Asia.  Pilsbry states that he presumes that it is native to this continent, but there is evidence that it is easily imported on soil of potted plants and there are at least some observers who consider it an import.  It does seem to be present in great numbers in suburban settings and domestic lawns.

This species is also known as Helix pulchella and Helix minuta.


Henry W. Parker described the Poweshiek skipper, the butterfly that this web site is named after.  His wife was Helen Fitch Parker, an accomplished author in her own right.  Helen wrote a book about snails which was intended for a Sunday School audience, and also included religious instruction.  The book is called Rambles After Land Shells.  That book can be found online here.  On page 11 of that book can be found some information about Helix pulchella, and how the shell can be cleaned by boiling the animal then pulling it out of the shell.  I found it amusing that I could recognize one of the snails I have photographed by her description.  Other snails that I have seen are also described in fair detail in the book by her. 

I plan to add some pages on Helen Fitch Parker at some time in the future because she was fascinating.  She did know her snails, and she did collect snails in Iowa.  However, her work was probably all destroyed when Iowa College's (now Grinnell College) natural history museum was destroyed, first by fire and then by a tornado.