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The morphology, atomic magnetic moments, and in-plane magnetic anisotropies of ultrathin bcc Fe(001) films deposited by molecular beam epitaxy on ZnSe epilayers grown on GaAs(001) single crystal are reported. The growth mode and structure have been determined in situ by means of reflection high energy electron diffraction and Auger electron spectroscopy. The magnetic properties were characterized ex situ by an alternating gradient magnetometer, superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) magnetometry, and conversion electron Mössbauer spectroscopy (CEMS). The Fe growth is epitaxial and occurs by three dimensional nucleation at the beginning. The coalescence of the islands is observed around 7 monolayers (ML). In agreement with SQUID results, CEMS measurements indicate no reduction of the Fe magnetic moment compared to the bulk value even for the first Fe monolayers. Determination of the in-plane anisotropy constants as function of the Fe thickness shows a strong interface-induced uniaxial in-plane magnetic anisotropy, which leads to a continuous evolution from a pure uniaxial anisotropy with easy axis along  direction for thickness below 10 ML to the pure bulk cubic Fe anisotropy above 40 ML. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.