The hypothesis that mantle plumes contain recycled oceanic crust is now widely accepted. Some specific source components of the Hawaiian plume have been inferred to represent recycled oceanic basalts, pelagic sediments or oceanic gabbros. Bulk lava compositions, however, retain the specific trace- element fingerprint of the original crustal component in only a highly attenuated form. Here we report the discovery of exotic, strontium-enriched melt inclusions in Mauna Loa olivines. Their complete trace-element patterns strongly resemble those of layered gabbros found in ophiolites, which are characterized by cumulus plagioclase with very high strontium abundances. The major-element compositions of these melts indicate that their composition cannot be the result of the assimilation of present-day oceanic crust through which the melts have travelled. Instead, the gabbro has been transformed into a (high-pressure) eclogite by subduction and recycling, and this eclogite has then been incorporated into the Hawaiian mantle plume. The trace-element signature of the original plagioclase is present only as a 'ghost' signature, which permits specific identification of the recycled rock type. The 'ghost plagioclase' trace-element signature demonstrates that the former gabbro can retain much of its original chemical identity through the convective cycle without completely mixing with other portions of the former oceanic crust.