Picrite basalt

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Picrite basalt or oceanite from the Piton de la Fournaise

Picrite basalt or picrobasalt is a variety of high-magnesium olivine basalt that is very rich in the mineral olivine. It is dark with yellow-green olivine phenocrysts (20-50%) and black to dark brown pyroxene, mostly augite.

The olivine-rich picrite basalts that occur with the more common tholeiitic basalts of Kīlauea and other volcanoes of the Hawaiian Islands are the result of accumulation of olivine crystals either in a portion of the magma chamber or in a caldera lava lake.[1] The compositions of these rocks are well represented by mixes of olivine and more typical tholeiitic basalt.

The name "picrite" can also be applied to an olivine-rich alkali basalt: such picrite consists largely of phenocrysts of olivine and titanium-rich augite pyroxene with minor plagioclase set in a groundmass of augite and more sodic plagioclase and perhaps analcite and biotite.

Picrites and komatiites are somewhat similar chemically (defined as >18% MgO), but differ in having 1 to 2% total alkalis and <1% total alkalis respectively. Komatiite lavas are products of more magnesium-rich melts, and good examples exhibit the spinifex texture.[2] They are largely restricted to the Archean. In contrast, picrites are magnesium-rich because crystals of olivine have accumulated in more normal melts by magmatic processes.

Picrite basalt is found in the lavas of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaiʻi[3], Curaçao, in the Piton de la Fournaise[4] volcano on Réunion Island and various other oceanic island volcanoes.

  • Picrite basalt has erupted in historical times from Mauna Loa during the eruptions of 1852 and 1868 (from different flanks of Mauna Loa).[5]
  • Picrite basalt with 30% olivine commonly erupts from the Piton de la Fournaise.[6]


Oceanite is the name of variety of picritic basalt characterized by its large amounts of olivine phenocrysts and lesser amounts of augite and by having a groundmass of olivine, plagioclase and augite. The term was coined by Antoine Lacroix in 1923 for rare basalts with more than 50% olivine.[7]

Common uses[edit]

Olivine basalt is commonly used by foundries, boilermakers and boiler users to protect the area around a burner tip or to protect a floor from molten metal and other slag. Its use in this fashion is appropriate since olivine is a highly refractory, high-melting-temperature mineral.[citation needed]


  • ^ Carmichael, Ian S. E.; Turner, Francis J.; Verhoogen, John (1974). Igneous Petrology. McGraw-Hill. pp. 406–426.
  • ^ Metrich, Nicole; Pineau, Françoise; Javoy, Marc (1988). "Volatiles: Mantle Source Characterization and Degassing Process for Hot Spot Volcanism - The Piton de la Fournaise (Reunion Island) Example". Archived from the original on 8 November 2005. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • ^ Kerr, A. C. (1997). "What is the difference between a komatiite and a picrite?". Archived from the original on 22 June 2004..
  • ^ Le Maitre, L. E., ed. (2002). Igneous Rocks: A Classification and Glossary of Terms (2nd ed.). Cambridge. p. 118.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • ^ Rhodes, J. M. (1995). "The 1852 and 1868 Mauna Loa Picrite Eruptions". Geophysical Monograph Series. American Geophysical Union. 92. Retrieved 18 February 2006.
  • Wilkinson, J. F. G.; Hensel, H. D. (1988). "The petrology of some picrites from Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes, Hawaii". Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology. 98 (3): 326–345. Bibcode:1988CoMP...98..326W. doi:10.1007/bf00375183. S2CID 115132181.
  • ^ Williams, Howel; Turner, Francis J.; Gilbert, Charles M. (1954). Petrography. W. H. Freeman. pp. 40–41.