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It tapers smoothly towards the tail, and is of markedly more robust build than its distinctly gracile congeners Dendroaspis angusticeps and Dendroaspis viridis.
The black mamba has a wide and fragmented range within sub-Saharan Africa.
Via Latin aspis, it is the source of the English word "asp".
The genus was first described by the German ornithologist and herpetologist Hermann Schlegel in 1848.
It apparently refers to the scale count of this species, which is higher than some other species in the genus.
Also, the size of the black mamba, plus its ability to raise its head well off the ground, enable it to launch as much as 40% of its body length upwards, so mamba bites in humans quite often are on the upper body.
These stories include the myth that it can outrun a galloping horse or a running human.