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■ (SPEC) Iris gatesii Fos.

1890, botanical author Foster

Iris gatesii Foster ( Sir Michael Foster, 1890, Mardin, Southeast Turkey and Iraq); Section Oncocyclus; 15-24" (37-60 cm); Color Class-S9M; Flowers large, 5-8" (13-20 cm) in diameter, color variable; Orbicular standards and falls grayish with lines of purple spots, often with darker reddish brown veining; Signal blotch variable in size from large to small; sometimes almost wholly hidden by beard; Style silvery white spotted purple; filaments and anthers whitish often tipped purple;

See below:
cornsilk yellow osborne photo.jpgGatesii1JB2017bh.jpgGatesii2JB2017.JPGGatesii3JB17bh.jpggatesii - Mayr 1.jpggatesii - Mayr 2.jpgGatessii Bot Mag .jpgI. gatesii Shockey ruler.jpgI. gatessii  Shockey.jpgIris-gatesiiHans Achilles.jpgIris-gatesiiHansAchillesSeed.jpgIris-gatesiiJim Kurtz.jpgIris-gatesiiRafielDiezDominguez1.jpg


From Walter Marx Gardens catalog 1955: GATESII (Oncocyclus) Each 8.50. This fabulous iris of extrerne rarity and gigantic size is seldom offered for sale. W. R. Dykes in his monumental work, THE GENUS IRIS, claimed that, excepting the Japanese Iris, this oncocyclus was larger than any other of the genus. The general color effect is light pearly gray, the standards are pale o1ive gray veined purple. The bronze beard is broad and sparse and embraces a small purple signal. About 15 inches high.
Journal of the Horticultural Society London 11: 144. 1890;
F.C.C., R.H.S. 1891, shown by Van T., Veitch; F.C.C., Amsterdam;
Van Tubergen in The Garden, 1897, Gatesii cultivation
In the following catalogs: Krel. 1891; 1913; Van T. 1900.
J. D. Hooker in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, vol. 128 (ser. 3, vol. 58): t. 7867 (1902) (M. Smith) provides the following description ;

"In point of size of flowers, I. Gatesii is, as far as is at present known, the monarch of the Irises. It belongs to a section (Oncocyclus) of the genus conspicuous in this respect, of which five have been figured in this magazine, namely, I. susiana, Linn. T. 91; I. lortetii, Barb. T. 7251; I. sari, Schott. Var. lurida, Boiss. T. 6960; I. iberica, Hoffm. T. 5817, and I. paradoxa, Stev. T. 7081. All of the section are Oriental, ranging from Asia Minor and Syria to Persia.

I. Gatesii was introduced into cultivation by Mr. Max Leichtlin, who obtained it from Mr. Sintenis, its discoverer in the mountains of Kurdistan, in Mesopotamia, near the town of Mardin, about sixty miles south of Diarbekir. It is named by Sir Michael Foster after his friend, the Rev. F.S.Gates, of the American Mission at that town. Mardin is described as situated on a lofty limestone hill, overlooking a large fertile plain, and is distinguished for the salubrity of its climate, and for containing substantially built Chaldean, Syrian, Catholic, Armenian, and Jacobite churches. It is not in Armenia (the hitherto reputed habitat of I. Gatesii) which lies to the northward of it.

Plants of I. Gatesii were obtained in 1901 by the Royal Gardens, Kew, from Messrs. Wulle of Naples; they flowered in an open border near a south wall in June,1902. The color of the flowers is difficult of description and probably variable.

Descr.-Rootstock very stout, short, creeping. Stems two to three feet high, stout, one-flowered. Leaves four to five, radical, a foot to a foot and a half long, by one half to two-thrds of an inch broad, linear, acuminate, nearely flat, pale, glaucous-green, nerves faint. Spathes four to five inches long, pale green. Flower shortly pedicelled, five to seven inches broad. Perianth-tube short; outer segments orbicular, recurved, three inches broad, very pale rose-lilac suffused with yellow towards the disk, covered with innumerable close-set darker veins, and sprinkled with minute purplish, spots, that are larger towards the base of the disk, which is furnished with long, erect, purplish-brown hairs; inner segments longer and more spathulate than the outer, erect and incurved, with recurved margins, similarly striate and speckled, but of a bluer color, and with three stout purple ribs from the base to beyond the middle of the disk. Style nearly two inches broad, bipartite, segments divaricate, quadrate, closely striate, with the perianth-segments acutely toothed. Capsule described as five inches long."
Dykes in The Genus Iris, 1913;
Rootstock , stout, short-creeping.
Leaves , linear-ensiform, slightly glaucous, 9-12 in. long, ½-3/4 in. wide.
Stem , about a foot or eighteen inches long with one or more clasping leaves.
Spathe valves , 1 -flowered, 4 ins. or more in length, green, striated, pointed, rounded, somewhat inflated, reaching above the tube.
Pedicel , short.
Ovary , 1½ in. long, rounded trigonal with broad groove on each side.
Tube , 1½-2 in. long, gradually expanding above, green with purple spots and a broad band of purple in continuation of the standards.
Falls . The haft, which is nearly an inch broad and somewhat greenish on the under side with veins and dots showing through, expands gradually into the ovate blade, which is as much as 4 or 5 inches wide. The ground colour is a greyish or greenish white, marked with very fine veins, formed of rows of small purple spots, and finely dotted with purple in the median portion. The greater part of the haft is covered with crowded hairs, irregularly scattered in groups, of a grey, greenish or brownish colour, flecked with purple ; on the blade these hairs divide and embrace a small purplish signal.
Standards , orbicular, about 4-5 ins. across, somewhat suddenly narrowed to the purplish claw. The colouring is similar to that of the falls, except that the purplish veins become more pronounced in the median region towards the haft.
Styles , much arched and sharply keeled, thickly spotted with purple on a creamy white ground.
Crests , subquadrate, with finely serrate edge, spotted and streaked purple on cream.
Stigma , semi-circular, entire.
Filaments , creamy white, often tinged with red.
Anthers , creamy white.
Pollen , cream.
Capsule, very large, as much as 5 in. in length.
Seeds , pyriform, with conspicuous white aril.


The flowers of this species are larger than those of any other Iris, except perhaps some of the Kaempferi hybrids. The colour is not handsome nor so beautiful as that of I. Lortetii. At a distance of a few feet the effect is a pale pearly grey, and the majestic size of the bloom is its most striking feature. A number of magnificent flowers of this Iris that I once saw in a neighbour's garden was a sight never to be forgotten.

That this Iris will flower freely under certain conditions is proved by a photograph reproduced in The Garden for July 31st, 1897, p. 83, representing a bed bearing hundreds of flower spikes in Van Tubergen's nursery at Haarlem. For cultivation see the introduction to the Oncocyclus section.
Yr. Bk., I.S.(E.) 42. 1933;


Monarch Iris. ----

Chromosome counts:

2n=20-Awishai & Zohary 1980. ----


Iris gatesii cultivars: 'Bailey's Cream', 'Corn Yellow', 'Gatesii Ball', 'Hand Of God'. ----


Iris gatesii crosses
  • Iris gatesii X Iris sari: 'Abou Ben Adhem'.
  • Oncogeliabred X Iris gatesii: 'Almost'.
  • Iris lortetii X Iris gatesii: 'Aphrodite', 'Bedouin Queen'.
  • Iris gatesii X Iris susiana: 'Tehama'.
  • Iris gatesii X Iris hayneii: 'Arabian Knight'.
  • Iris gatesii X Iris mariae: 'Desert Gem'.
  • Iris gatesii X Onco hybrid: 'Big Kid'.
  • Iris nazarena X Iris gatesii: 'Platinum Diamond'.
  • Oncohybrid X Iris gatesii: 'Bedouin Temptress', 'Gates Of Persia', 'Prince Of Donegal'.
  • Iris korolkowii X Iris gatesii: 'Dream Step', 'Eos'.
  • Iris gatesii X TB: 'Trudie's Painting'.
  • TB X Iris gatesii: 'William Mohr', 'William Mohr Giant'.
Iris gatesii is a grandparent in the following crosses: 'Almost Persuaded', 'Alta Mohr', 'Amohr', 'Arabian Mount', 'Aril Arrow', 'Barrimohr', 'Bella Mohr', 'Blumohr', 'Brawney Bill', 'British Empire', 'Capitola', 'Casino', 'Colossal', 'Daughter Of Time', 'Desert Caravan', 'Easter Mohr', 'Elmohr', 'Evermohr', 'Gaymohr', 'Grace Mohr', 'Gray Mohr', 'Green Mohr', 'Gros Grain', 'Inbal', 'Kulinor', 'Laurel Hill', 'Lady Mohr', 'Maramohr', 'Marbled Mohr', 'Mardin', 'Master Neil', 'Mohr Affair', 'Mohr Courageous', 'Mohr Majesty', 'Mohr Symphony', 'Mohrdyke', 'Mohrson', 'Mount Mazama', 'My Cap', 'My Day', 'New Look', 'N. J. Thomas', 'Onliwon', 'Ormohr', 'Parachute Ii', 'Pastel Lady', 'Royal Turba' 'Sandy Mohr', 'Saramohr', 'Song Of Solomon', 'Spiced Wine', 'Spring Violet', 'Sunspun', 'Syrian Scroll', 'Vici Lynn Reed'.

Distribution & Cultivation


cornsilk yellow osborne photo.jpgGatesii1JB2017bh.jpgGatesii2JB2017.JPGGatesii3JB17bh.jpggatesii - Mayr 1.jpggatesii - Mayr 2.jpgGatessii Bot Mag .jpgI. gatesii Shockey ruler.jpgI. gatessii  Shockey.jpgIris-gatesiiHans Achilles.jpgIris-gatesiiHansAchillesSeed.jpgIris-gatesiiJim Kurtz.jpgIris-gatesiiRafielDiezDominguez1.jpg

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-- Main.RPries - 2010-01-12
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Gatesii1JB2017bh.jpgjpg Gatesii1JB2017bh.jpg manage 49 K 12 May 2017 - 21:56 Main.Betsy881 Photo by John Baumfalk
Gatesii2JB2017.JPGJPG Gatesii2JB2017.JPG manage 99 K 12 May 2017 - 21:58 Main.Betsy881 Photo by John Baumfalk
Gatesii3JB17bh.jpgjpg Gatesii3JB17bh.jpg manage 38 K 12 May 2017 - 21:59 Main.Betsy881 Photo by John Baumfalk
Gatessii_Bot_Mag_.jpgjpg Gatessii_Bot_Mag_.jpg manage 208 K 14 Nov 2013 - 18:17 BobPries Biodiversity Heritage Library
I._gatesii_Shockey_ruler.jpgjpg I._gatesii_Shockey_ruler.jpg manage 477 K 05 Dec 2013 - 19:09 BobPries Shockey photo
I._gatessii__Shockey.jpgjpg I._gatessii__Shockey.jpg manage 577 K 05 Dec 2013 - 19:10 BobPries Shockey photo
Iris-gatesiiHansAchillesSeed.jpgjpg Iris-gatesiiHansAchillesSeed.jpg manage 60 K 01 Aug 2016 - 12:01 BobPries Hans Achilles photo
Iris-gatesiiHans_Achilles.jpgjpg Iris-gatesiiHans_Achilles.jpg manage 213 K 01 Aug 2016 - 12:00 BobPries Hans Achilles photo
Iris-gatesiiJim_Kurtz.jpgjpg Iris-gatesiiJim_Kurtz.jpg manage 92 K 01 Aug 2016 - 12:00 BobPries Jim Kurtz photo
Iris-gatesiiRafielDiezDominguez1.jpgjpg Iris-gatesiiRafielDiezDominguez1.jpg manage 163 K 01 Aug 2016 - 11:59 BobPries Rafiel Diez Dominguez photo
cornsilk_yellow_osborne_photo.jpgjpg cornsilk_yellow_osborne_photo.jpg manage 796 K 05 Dec 2013 - 20:59 BobPries Osbourne photo
gatesii_-_Mayr_1.jpgjpg gatesii_-_Mayr_1.jpg manage 23 K 06 Feb 2010 - 19:36 Main.Betsy881 Photo by Mayr
gatesii_-_Mayr_2.jpgjpg gatesii_-_Mayr_2.jpg manage 21 K 06 Feb 2010 - 19:36 Main.Betsy881 Photo by Mayr
Topic revision: r15 - 08 Jun 2019, Betsy881
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