Study of four K-feldspar megacrystic granitic plutons and related dikes in the Sierra Nevada composite batholith indicates that the megacrysts are phenocrysts that grew in contact with granitic melt. Growth to megacrystic sizes was due to repeated replenishment of the magma bodies by fresh granitic melt that maintained temperatures above the solidus for extended time periods and that provided components necessary for K-feldspar growth. These intrusions cooled 89–83 Ma, are the youngest in the range, and represent the culminating magmatic phase of the Sierra Nevada batholith. They are the granodiorite of Topaz Lake, the Cathedral Peak Granodiorite, the Mono Creek Granite, the Whitney Granodiorite, the Johnson Granite Porphyry, and the Golden Bear Dike.
Megacrysts in these igneous bodies attain 4–10 cm in length. All have sawtooth oscillatory zoning marked by varying concentration of BaO ranging generally from 3.5 to 0.5 wt%. Some of the more pronounced zones begin with resorption and channeling of the underlying zone.
Layers of mineral inclusions, principally plagioclase, but also biotite, quartz, hornblende, titanite, and accessory minerals, are parallel to the BaO-delineated zones, are sorted by size along the boundaries, and have their long axes preferentially aligned parallel to the boundaries. These features indicate that the K-feldspar megacrysts grew while surrounded by melt, allowing the inclusion minerals to periodically attach themselves to the faces of the growing crystals.
The temperature of growth of titanite included within the K-feldspar megacrysts is estimated by use of a Zr-intitanite geothermometer. Megacryst-hosted titanite grains all yield temperatures typical of felsic magmas, mainly 735–760 °C. Titanite grains in the granodiorite hosts marginal to the megacrysts range to lower growth temperatures, in some instances into the subsolidus. The limited range and igneous values of growth temperatures for megacryst-hosted titanite grains support the interpretation that the megacrysts formed as igneous sanidine phenocrysts, that intrusion temperatures varied by only small amounts while the megacrysts grew, and that megacryst growth ceased before the intrusions cooled below the solidus. Individual Ba-enriched zones were apparently formed by repeated surges of new, hotter granitic melt that replenished these large magma chambers. Each recharge of hot magma offset cooling, maintained the partially molten or mushy character of the chamber, stirred up crystals, and induced convective currents that lofted, settling megacrysts back up into the chamber. Because of repeated reheating of the magma chamber and prolonged maintenance of the melt, this process apparently continued long enough to provide the ideal environment for the growth of these extraordinarily large K-feldspar phenocrysts.