Five ternary Sn-0.7Cu-xNi alloys with nickel contents in the range 0-1000 ppm have been directionally solidified at different growth rates. The competition between primary tetragonal Sn cells/dendrites, eutectic and primary Cu6Sn5 is interpreted with phase diagrams available in the literature and in terms of the coupled zone concept. As for binary Sn-Cu alloys, it is found that Sn-Cu-Ni forms two different eutectic morphologies (coarse and fine) simultaneously during eutectic growth. Solidification of high-purity alloys with the intentional addition of selected trace elements usually present in tin confirms the importance of impurities in the destabilization of the eutectic interface into cellular morphologies, with the fine and coarse eutectic present at the cell centres and boundaries, respectively. (C) 2011 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.