The Cima volcanic field, in the southern Basin and Range province (California, USA), includes >70 eruptive units over the last 8 m.y. The youngest (≤1 Ma) are low Mg# (≥56) hawaiites derived from an asthenospheric mantle source. The Cima hawaiites, and adjacent Dish Hill basanites, are known for carrying large mantle xenoliths, which precludes stalling in a crustal reservoir. This raises the question of how low Mg# hawaiites, which cannot be in equilibrium with peridotite mantle, formed and differentiated while carrying dense, mantle xenoliths. Several hypotheses are evaluated and the only one shown to be viable is mixing between high-MgO basanite (with entrained mantle xenoliths and sparse olivine phenocrysts) and low-MgO mugearite liquids, which formed by partial melting of mafic lower crust under relatively dry and reducing conditions. Multiple lines of evidence, including the presence of mantle xenoliths in hawaiites, diffusion-limited growth textures in olivine and clinopyroxene, and notably thin Fe-rich rims on high-MgO olivine crystals (inherited), indicate magma mixing must have occurred rapidly (days or less) during ascent to the surface along intersecting fractures, and not in a stalled crustal reservoir. Abundant evidence points to clinopyroxene growth immediately after mixing, and application of clinopyroxene-melt barometry constrains the depth of mixing to the lower and middle crust (0.8–0.4 GPa). Results from olivinemelt thermometry/hygrometry (~1196 °C and ~1.4 wt% H2O) applied to a basanite from Dish Hill carrying 5–20 cm mantle xenoliths leads to calculated ascent velocities ≥0.3–4.9 km/h, enabling ascent through the 36 km thick crust in ≤7–119 h.

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