© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. To assess the eruption and emplacement of volumetrically diverse rhyolite lavas, we measured microlite number densities and orientations from samples collected from nine lavas in Yellowstone Caldera and two from Mono Craters, USA. Microlite populations are composed of Fe-Ti oxides ± alkali feldspar ± clinopyroxene. Number densities range from 108.11 ± 0.03 to 109.45 ± 0.15 cm−3 and do not correlate with distance from the vent across individual flows and are remarkably similar between large- and small-volume lavas. Together, those observations suggest that number densities are unmodified during emplacement and that ascent rates in the conduit are similar between small domes and large lava flows. Microtextures produced by continuous decompression experiments best replicate natural textures at decompression rates of 1–2 MPa hr−1. Acicular microlites have a preferred orientation in all natural samples. Because the standard deviation of microlite orientation does not become better aligned with distance travelled, we conclude that microlites exit the conduit aligned and that strain during subaerial flow was insufficient to further align microlites. The orientations of microlite trend and plunge in near-vent samples indicate that pure shear was the dominant style of deformation in the conduit. We speculate that collapsing permeable foam(s) provides a mechanism to concurrently allow microlite formation and alignment in response to the combination of degassing and flattening by pure shear.