Vein-plus-wall-rock melting mechanisms in the lithosphere and the origin of potassic alkaline magmas

Stephen Foley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

612 Citations (Scopus)


A model is developed for the origin of ultrapotassic melts by melting of veined lithosphere; the veins are rich in clinopyroxene and mica, whereas the wall-rocks consist principally of peridotites. The veins originate by solidification of low-degree melts which are themselves the results of earlier, deeper, multistage processes ultimately due to the presence of a transition zone between large-scale channelled and porous flow regimes. The melting event producing the ultrapotassic magma begins in the veins due to the concentration of hydrous phases and incompatible elements, but spreads to include the surrounding wall-rocks by a combination of two mechanisms. The alkaline magma composition is thus a hybrid of vein (V) and wall-rock (W) components. The melt hybridization mechanisms are: (i) Solid-solution melting: Minerals which from extensive solid-solutions are abundant in the vein assemblages (Cr/Al spinel, F/OH mica, amphibole and apatite). The breakdown of these phases take place over a temperature range between the solidus of the vein assemblage and the elimination of the more refractory end-members. This process bridges the temperature gap between the solid of vein and wall-rock, so that a melt component from the wall-rock is added to that from the vein before elimination of all vein minerals. Phlogopite forms the most effective of these sliding reactions, resulting in its stability at near-liquids temperatures in experiments. (ii) Dissolution of wall-rock minerals: The initial melt fraction in the vein infiltrates the surrounding wall-rock due to the dominance of surface energy minimization on melt flow at the intergranular scale. Following infiltration, dissolution of wall-rock minerals occurs at temperatures lower than their melting temperatures, thus imparting a refractory wall-rock component to the melt composition. Dissolution of olivine and/or orthopyroxene occurs preferentially, since these minerals are furthest from equilibrium with the strongly alkaline, vein-derived melt. Remobilisation of several generations of veins explains the occurrence within a restricted space and time of rocks bearing chemical characteristics which are generally thought to indicate contrasting tectonic settings (e.g. central Italy). The ultrapotassic rocks are explained as being dominanyly vein-derived (i.e. high V/W ratio): further dilution of the V-component by wall-rock, supplemented by asthenospheric melt in advanced cases, leads to the production of more voluminous basaltic rocks bearing incompatible element signatures reminiscent of those of ultrapotassic rocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-453
Number of pages19
Issue number3-6
Publication statusPublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Vein-plus-wall-rock melting mechanisms in the lithosphere and the origin of potassic alkaline magmas'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this