Any igneous rock of simple composition, such as granite composed only of alkali feldspar, muscovite mica, and quartz; in a more restricted sense, uniformly fine-grained (less than 0.08 in., or 2 mm), light-coloured igneous rocks that have a characteristic granular texture. Unlike pegmatite, which is similar but much coarser-grained, aplite occurs in small bodies that rarely contain zones of different minerals. The two rocks may occur together and are assumed to have formed at the same time from similar magmas.
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Aplite in petrology, the name given to intrusive rock in which quartz and feldspar are the dominant minerals. Aplites are usually very fine-grained, white, grey or pinkish, and their constituents are visible only with the help of a magnifying lens. Dykes and threads of aplite are commonly observed traversing granitic bosses; they occur also, though less frequently, in syenites, diorites, quartz-diabases and gabbros.
Aplites usually have a genetic affinity to the rocks they intersect. The aplites of granite areas, for example, are the last part of the magma to crystallize, and correspond in composition to the quartzo-feldspathic aggregates that fill up the interspaces between the early minerals in the main body of the rock. They bear a considerable resemblance to the eutectic mixtures which are formed on the cooling of solutions of mineral salts, and remain liquid till the excess of either of the components has separated out, finally solidifying en masse when the proper proportions of the constituents and a suitable temperature are reached.
The essential components of aplites are quartz and alkali feldspar (the latter usually orthoclase or microperthite), microcline and albite. Crystallization has been apparently rapid (as the rocks are so fine-grained), and the ingredients have solidified almost at the same time. Hence their crystals are rather imperfect and fit closely to one another in a sort of fine mosaic of nearly equi-dimensional grains. Porphyritic feldspars occur occasionally and quartz more seldom; but the relation of the aplites to quartz-porphyries, granophyres and felsites is very close, as all these rocks have nearly the same chemical composition.
The aplites associated with diorites and quartz-diabases differ in minor respects from the common aplites which accompany granites. The accessory minerals of these rocks are principally oligoclase, muscovite, apatite and zircon. Biotite and all ferromagnesian minerals rarely appear in them, and never in considerable amounts. Riebeckite-granites have close affinities to aplites, shown especially in the prevalence of alkali feldspars. Tourmaline also occurs in some aplites.
The rocks of this group are very frequent in all areas where masses of granite are known. They form dykes and irregular veins which may be only a few inches or many feet in diameter. Less frequently aplite forms stocks or bosses, or occupies the edges or irregular portions of the interior of outcrops of granite. The syenite-aplites consist mainly of alkali feldspar; the diorite-aplites of plagioclase; there are nepheline-bearing aplites which intersect some elaeolite-syenites. In all cases they bear the same relation to the parent masses. By increase of quartz, aplites pass gradually, in a few localities, through highly quartzose modifications into quartz veins.