Nano-electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (nano-ESI-FTICRMS) was employed for the analysis of the phytosiderophore 2′-deoxymugineic acid (DMA) and the candidate ligand for the intracellular iron transport in plants nicotianamine (NA). Due to the zwitterionic nature of NA and DMA, complementary mass spectra were obtained in positive and negative ionization modes. The technique was also used for speciation of their complexes with Fe(II) and Fe(III), respectively. The species observed at pH 7.3 are the 1:1 Fe-ligand complexes and no evidence for the existence of dimeric complexes was observed. NA and DMA differ only by one mass unit. Consequently, in the system NA + DMA + Fe(II)/Fe(III), there are pairs of iron species (i.e. NA-Fe(II) and DMA-Fe(III)) with the same nominal mass, which differ only by ∼0.02 mass units. It is shown that high-resolution MS accompanied by accurate mass data analysis allows the unequivocal identification of all four iron species (NA-Fe(II), NA-Fe(III), DMA-Fe(II), DMA-Fe(III)) in one solution without separation. We also addressed the possible alteration of the oxidation state of chelated iron under nano-ESI conditions, but no redox reactions were observed under optimized conditions. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.