Sphene is prominent in Miocene plutonic rocks ranging from diorite to granite in southern Nevada, USA, but it is restricted to rhyolites in coeval volcanic sequences. In the Highland Range volcanic sequence, sphene appears as a phenocryst only in the most evolved rocks (72-77 mass% SiO2; matrix glass 77-78 mass% SiO2). Zr-in-sphene temperatures of crystallization are mostly restricted to 715 and 755??C, in contrast to zircon (710-920??C, Ti-in-zircon thermometry). Sphene rim/glass Kds for rare earth elements are extremely high (La 120, Sm 1200, Gd 1300, Lu 240). Rare earth elements, especially the middle REE (MREE), decrease from centers to rims of sphene phenocrysts along with Zr, demonstrating the effect of progressive sphene fractionation. Whole rocks and glasses have MREE-depleted, U-shaped REE patterns as a consequence of sphene fractionation. Within the co-genetic, sphene-rich Searchlight pluton, only evolved leucogranites show comparable MREE depletion. These results indicate that sphene saturation in intruded and extruded magmas occurred only in highly evolved melts: abundant sphene in less silicic plutonic rocks represents a late-stage 'bloom' in fractionated interstitial melt. ?? 2011 Springer-Verlag.