A method incorporating high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with electrospray ionization and tandem mass spectrometry, with parallel analysis by HPLC with UV detection using a diode-array detector, was developed for the qualitative characterization of flavonoids in D. odorifera. Twenty-three flavonoids, including six isoflavones, six neoflavones, four isoflavanones, three flavanones, two chalcones, one isoflavanonol and one pterocarpan, were unambiguously identified by comparing their retention times, UV and MS spectra with those of authentic compounds. Furthermore, the collision-induced dissociations of the [MH]− ions were studied to clarify the MS behavior of the different types of flavonoids. In negative ion ESI-MS all the flavonoids yielded prominent [MH]− ions in the first order mass spectra. Fragments involving losses of CH, H2O, CO, C2H2O, and CO2 were observed in the MS/MS spectra. Each of the seven types of flavonoid showed characteristic MS/MS fragmentation patterns. The isoflavanones, flavanones and chalcones were observed to undergo retro-Diels-Alder fragmentations. The spectra of almost all the neoflavonoids unexpectedly exhibited only [MHCH3]−. radical anions as base peaks without any further fragmentation. Substitution positions also remarkably influenced the fragmentation behavior, which could assist in distinction among the flavonoid isomers. The fragmentation rules deduced here could aid in the characterization of other flavonoids of these types. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.