Pleistocene basalt of the Mount Edgecumbe volcanic field (MEF) is subdivided into a plagioclase type and an olivine type. Olivine basalt crops out farther inboard from the nearby Fairweather transform than plagioclase basalt. Th/La ratios of plagioclase basalt are similar to those of mid-ocean-ridge basalt (MORB), whereas those of olivine basalt are of continental affinity. The olivine basalt has higher 87Sr/86Sr ratios than the plagioclase basalt.We model rare earth element (REE) contents of the olivine basalt, which resemble those of transitional MORB, by 10–15% partial melting of fertile spinel–plagioclase lherzolite followed by removal of 8–13% olivine. Normative mineralogy indicates melting in the spinel stability field. REE contents of an undersaturated basalt (sample 5L005) resemble those of Mauna Loa tholeiite and are modelled by 5–10% partial melting of fertile garnet lherzolite followed by 10% olivine removal. Plagioclase basalt resembles sample 5L005 in REE contents but is lower in other incompatible-element contents and 87Sr/86Sr ratios. Plagioclase basalt either originated in depleted garnet lherzolite or is a mixture of sample 5L005 and normal MORB; complex zoning of plagioclase and colinear Sc and Th contents are consistent with magma mixing.We conclude that olivine basalt originated in subcontinental spinel lherzolite and that plagioclase basalt may have originated in suboceanic lithosphere of the Pacific plate. Lithospheric melting seemingly requires vertical flow of mantle material, although there is no direct evidence at the MEF for crustal extension that might provide a mechanism for mantle advection. In any case, most MEF magmas are subalkaline because of moderately high degrees of partial melting at shallow depth.