Abstract Analyses of Sr and REE in apatites from a variety of mantle-derived parageneses are used in conjunction with trace element data from the literature to investigate relationships between alkali basalts and apatite-rich materials in upper-mantle source regions. Despite difficulties in interpretation, positive P-anomalies in the hygromagmatophile element abundance patterns of some continental primary alkali basalts suggest either P-enrichment of their source or assimilation of P-rich material, or both. Amphibole- and apatite-rich xenoliths occur in several alkali-basalt provinces, and by virtue of the P and LREE enrichment represent a probable source of the P anomalies and part of the other trace element enrichments of these magmas. Incorporation of such apatite-rich materials by later primary magmas would be enhanced by the high P 2O 5 concentrations required to achieve apatite saturation in basaltic liquids. In the early stages of mantle diapirism an undersaturated magma, produced by slight partial melting of garnet peridotite, might fractionate as it rises to the range of amphibole stability. Hygromagmatophile element patterns of clinopyroxenite xenoliths indicate that clinopyroxene fractionation could produce P-enriched liquids which might subsequently crystallize amphibole- and apatite-rich materials now represented by xenoliths. During generation of later primary magma, apatite-rich materials might preferentially contaminate the liquids, to yield positive P-anomalies. This model requires that magmas undergo prolonged fractionation at considerable depth (~ 100 km), a process which is apparently most probable in subcontinental environments. An apatite- and zircon-bearing mica-clinopyroxenite xenolith from Matsoku provides a link between the S. African MARID suite and amphibole and apatite-rich xenoliths from various alkali basalt provinces. Unusual REE patterns ( La N < Ce N < Nd N , Ce N/Y N −10 ) of apatites in this xenolith suggest a link between the MARID suite xenoliths and postulated pre-Karroo mantle metasomatism.