Potassium-rich mafic dykes and lavas from the Highwood Mountains Igneous Province, USA were studied by electron-microprobe and bulk-rock analysis. For the mafic phonolites, compositional trends for olivine and augite phenocrysts and groundmass biotite, alkali feldspar and titanomagnetites are presented and substitution mechanisms discussed. Phenocrysts of biotite and augite in the minettes are also characterized, together with groundmass alkali feldspar and titanomagnetite. The alkali feldspars and biotites are commonly enriched in Ba. Olivine, clinopyroxene and biotite phenocrysts are generally quite magnesium-rich, which is consistent with the primitive natures of the least evolved rocks.
Bulk-rock major-element compositions are combined with modal and microprobe data for the principal phenocrysts to calculate model residual liquid compositions for mafic phonolites, minettes and a syenitic rock. On the basis of phase-equilibria, it is suggested that the main controls of differentiation are polybaric involving crystallization during transport of primary magmas from the mantle for the minettes, and low-pressure differentiation for the mafic phonolites. Whereas magma mixing might have contributed to petrogenesis, many of the disequilibrium features exhibited by clinopyroxene and biotite phenocrysts can also be attributed to pre-existing phenocrysts undergoing decompression melting during magma uprise from its mantle source, followed by rapid crystal growth and episodic volatile loss in sub-volcanic magma chambers.