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■ (SPEC) Iris atropurpurea Baker

1889, Botanical author Baker

Iris atropurpurea Baker (John Gilbert Baker, 1889, Gaza & Negev, Israel); Section Oncocyclus; height 6-10" (15-25 cm). Very early bloom. Color Class R3D; Very dark or blackish purple; falls usually even darker than standards, short yellow beard hairs, signal blackish.

See below:

Photo scanned from the Herbert Kerr slide collectionPhoto scanned from the Herbert Kerr slide collectionPhoto by FietzBenny Strashunski photoMartin Schwartz photoTom Waters photoNiodivetsity Heritage LibraryPhoto by Yuval SapirPhoto taken by Sophiea Aron Abzach.David Joseph photoA unique and pretty rare colour of Iris atropurpurea.


Images of I. atropurpurea in the wild at INaturalistUK
Baker in The Gardeners' Chronicle 1: 330. 1889;
Sapir, Shmida, Fragman and Comes. (2002) Morphological variation of the Oncocyclus Irises in the southern Levant. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 139: 369-382.
Foster in The Garden, p.133, February 18, 1893 offers this *description":"This Iris, introduced into cultivation from Syria by Messrs. Dammann, may perhaps be considered as coming within an I. iberica group. The foliage is not unlike that of I. iberica, and the stem, though always of some length, never rises very high. The flower is somewhat small. The fall, narrow and ovate, bears on the claw and hind part of the blade a yellow patch, on which numerous, but scattered yellow hairs, tipped with dark purple or black. In front of this is a semicircular "signal" patch of almost black-purple, and the rest of the fall is a very dark purple, almost black, no distinct veins being discernable. The standard, larger and orbicular, is also of a deep black-purple, but on this veins of a still deeper color may be distinguished. The style is of a reddish purple-brown, with relatively small quadrate crests. Within the spathe valves a rudiment of a second flower may sometimes be seen. The plant varies somewhat, one variety being called by Messrs. Dammann 'Odysseus'.
Gartenflora [E. von Regel], vol. 40: t. 1361 (1891)
Krel. 1892; 1913; Van T. 1900;
Dykes in The Genus Iris, 1913 notes:

Rootstock , a compact rhizome.
Leaves , linear, falcate, slightly glaucous, about 6 in. long at flowering time.
Stem , one-headed, about 6-8 in. in height, bearing about the centre a clasping leaf-like bract.
Spathe valves , lanceolate, green, 3-4 in. long, rising far above the top of the tube, I -flowered.
Pedicel , none.
Ovary , light green, rounded trigonal, 3/4-1 in. long.
Tube , 1¼ in. long, green with dark stripes in line with the standards.
Falls . There is no constriction between the broad oblong haft and the slightly more oval blade, but the haft is suddenly constricted at its attachment to the tube. In colour the haft is veined with thick red purple veins which merge into the dark purple ground colour, while the blade is almost black with a rectangular greenish yellow signal patch, in front of which there is a semicircular velvety quite black patch. The diffuse beard consists of thick, scattered yellowish hairs tipped with purplish black. 2 in. by I½ in.
Standards . Orbicular, with canaliculate unbearded haft, of a dark reddish purple with inconspicuous black veins, 3 in. by 2 in., but bearing no hairs.
Styles , much arched laterally, keeled, mottled with dark reddish brown.
Crests , quadrate, dark purple, edges finely serrate.
Stigma , mottled with reddish brown, conspicuously notched.
Filaments , yellow.
Anthers , twice as long as the filaments, white.
Pollen ,
Capsule ,
Seeds ,


It will be convenient to discuss several other names together with that of I. atropurpurea, for there has arisen an unfortunate confusion in the nomenclature.

If the view is accepted, which was put forward in the introduction to this section (p. 107), that several of these supposed species are really only differently coloured local races of the same species, it will be easy to understand how confusion may have arisen, seeing that colour is the only distinguishing feature and that this fades nearly entirely away after a few months or years in a herbarium.

The question is further complicated by the fact that these plants were most of them introduced from Palestine and Syria by Messrs Dammann of Naples, whose assistants seem to have been in the habit of setting up for themselves and then importing plants from the same neighbourhoods. In this way confusions arose, which were unwittingly perpetuated by the Kew authorities to whom specimens were sent for determination and to be named. (The evidence is in Herb. Kew.)

As far as I have been able to unravel the tangle, the truth of the matter seems to be as follows. In 1889 there were sent to Kew specimens of an Iris which Messrs Dammann had obtained from Syria in 1888. These were named by Baker I. atropurpurea (K) in Gard. Chron. 1889, I. p. 330. See also *Gartenflora, 1891, t. 1361. This Iris, which has somewhat small and narrow and often falcate leaves, is distinguished by its undotted flowers of a uniform black colour with a beard of dark purple black hairs, between which the yellow ground is apparent.

In 1893 Messrs Herb and Wulle of Naples sent to Kew plants, which Baker described as I. atrofusca in Gard. Chron. 1893, I. p. 384.

In the same year the same firm supplied to Gartenflora and to the Bull. Soc. Tosc. Ort. a double coloured plate containing an I. atrofusca Baker. There is also a photograph of the whole plant at p. 487 in that volume of Gartenflora.

In Baker's original specimens enough colour still fortunately remains to show that the standards are coarsely veined and dotted with small purple blotchy spots. This fact and the above-mentioned figures and descriptions leave no doubt that the plant in question here is that which has been in cultivation for some years as I. Haynei.

Whether the name is really applicable to this plant cannot be determined, for all we know of I. Haynei is that two specimens were collected by Hayne on Mt Gilboa in 1872 (K), and that the colour was originally "lilac-purple" (Baker, Gard. Chron. 1876, II. p. 710, Hdk. lrid. p. 19 (1892)). It is unfortunately no longer possible to see from the specimens (K) whether the flowers were dotted with purple or not.

It should be noticed that in his article in Gartenflora, 1893, p. 486, Wulle mentions the existence of a poor dull-coloured form of I. atropurpurea, which some supposed to be Baker's I. atrofusca, and points out that the plants which he had sent to Baker were much finer and larger.

In 1894 Messrs Dammann sent to Kew the plants which formed the subject of Bot. Mag. t. 7379.

These are doubtless the poor form of I. atropurpurea, mentioned by Wulle. Baker recognised their affinity to that species and accordingly stated that he had come to consider I. atrofusca as a mere variety of I. atropurpurea, not apparently realising that the plants that he had originally received from Herb and Wulle and described as I. atrofusca were not the same as the later consignment from Messrs Dammann.

The result of this somewhat intricate investigation is that we must attach the name of I. atrofusca to the plant well known in gardens now as I. Haynei, until we can ascertain whether this is really the Iris that grows on Mt Gilboa. If this proves to be the case, then Baker's name I. atrofusca of the Gard. Chron. becomes a synonym of I. Haynei and his I. atrofusca from the Bot. Mag. becomes recognised as a dull brownish-black variety of I. atropurpurea.

I. atropurpurea must apparently be fairly closely allied to I. Barnumae from which it differs chiefly in the colour and in particular in the yellow patch that relieves in the intense black of the falls.
Yr. Bk., I.S.(E.) 42. 1933;
Amer. Col. 1933; 1939;
F.C.C., Amsterdam 1893;
Bull. Soc. Tosc. Ortic. 16: 144. tab. 5. 1891, illustrated; 209. tab. 7. 1893, illustrated in color;
From The Court Of Iris catalog, 1955: The standards are of a dark reddish-purple with black veins, while the falls are a uniform almost black tone. There is a greenish-yellow signal patch which is bordered velvety black while the beard is of scattered yellowish hairs. This one grows in the sandy lowlands near the coast where the annual rainfall is about twenty inches. Extra early bloom. 12-18". $1.50.


Black Purple Iris; Iris eggeri; (The name atropurpurea is sometimes misapplied to color forms of Iris pumila and Iris germanica). Registered as ':Atropurpurea Eggeri'. Sometimes confused with Iris atrofusca

Chromosome counts

2n=20-Simonet, 2n=20-Randolph & Mitra 1958, 2n=20-Avishai & Zohary 1980.


Iris atropurpurea Baker has the following botanical varieties: var. atropurpurea and var. eggeri Dinsmore
Iris atropurpurea cultivars: 'Atropurpurea Eggeri' 'Rachel'


Iris atropurpurea crosses: Oncogelia hybrids: 'Ishii' Arilbred X Iris atropurpurea: 'Copacabana', 'Tul Kerem'

¼ Iris atropurpurea crosses: 'Aril Classic', 'Aril Landmark', 'Aril Messenger', 'Aril Sanctum'??, 'Bagdad Gem', 'Copper Pond', 'Desert Shadow', 'Gan Eden'. 'Inbal', 'Mulberry Torch', 'Nigerian Night', 'Nomad's Child', 'Pleasure Ahead', 'Polished Brass', 'Pride Of Haifa', 'Prince Of Donegal', 'Prodigal Son', 'Rockeye', 'Sand Devil', 'Shany', 'Speckled Delight', 'Sultry Eyes', 'Zivan'

Distribution and Cultivation

Israel, coastal plains from Ashdod in the South to Atlit in the North. Endemic and vulnerable (Smida and Polak, 2008, the Red Data Book - the Rare and Endangered Plants of Israel.) For cultivation of Oncocyclus


For Further Reading see Library Search for Iris atropurpurea


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-- BobPries - 2010-02-01
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
I_atropurpureaYS.jpgjpg I_atropurpureaYS.jpg manage 65 K 15 Mar 2013 - 16:38 BetsyHiggins Photo by Yuval Sapir
Iris atropurpurea taken by Sophiea Aron Abzach.jpgjpg Iris atropurpurea taken by Sophiea Aron Abzach.jpg manage 73 K 22 Jul 2019 - 16:19 HollyJohnson2017-04-01 Photo taken by Sophiea Aron Abzach.
Iris-atropurpureaDavidJosef.jpgjpg Iris-atropurpureaDavidJosef.jpg manage 109 K 05 Aug 2016 - 18:21 BobPries David Joseph photo
P00307-1354273.jpgjpg P00307-1354273.jpg manage 878 K 28 Jan 2022 - 21:54 YoungBotanist A unique and pretty rare colour of Iris atropurpurea.
astro01.jpgjpg astro01.jpg manage 76 K 27 Dec 2015 - 16:03 TerryLaurin Photo scanned from the Herbert Kerr slide collection
atro01.jpgjpg atro01.jpg manage 64 K 27 Dec 2015 - 16:04 TerryLaurin Photo scanned from the Herbert Kerr slide collection
atropurpureaBenny_Strashunski.jpgjpg atropurpureaBenny_Strashunski.jpg manage 204 K 05 Aug 2016 - 18:19 BobPries Benny Strashunski photo
atropurpureaSchwartz.jpgjpg atropurpureaSchwartz.jpg manage 28 K 05 Aug 2016 - 18:15 BobPries Martin Schwartz photo
atropurpureaTomWaters.jpgjpg atropurpureaTomWaters.jpg manage 44 K 05 Aug 2016 - 18:22 BobPries Tom Waters photo
atropurpurea_-_Fietz.jpgjpg atropurpurea_-_Fietz.jpg manage 22 K 06 Feb 2010 - 01:01 BetsyHiggins Photo by Fietz
gartenfloraAtropurpureatable1361.jpgjpg gartenfloraAtropurpureatable1361.jpg manage 239 K 11 Oct 2013 - 20:30 BobPries Niodivetsity Heritage Library
Topic revision: r24 - 30 May 2024, BobPries
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