It has previously been demonstrated by others that acetone extracts of Senecio jacobaea (syn. Jacobaea vulgaris, common or tansy ragwort) test positive in the Salmonella/microsome mutagenicity test (Ames test). Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are thought to be responsible for these mutagenic effects. However, it was also observed that the major PA present in common ragwort, jacobine, produced a negative response (with and without the addition of rat liver S9) in Salmonella test strains TA98, TA100, TA1535 and TA1537. To investigate which compounds in the plant extracts were responsible for the positive outcome, the present study investigated the contents and mutagenic effects of methanol and acetone extracts prepared from dried ground S. jacobaea and Senecio inaequidens (narrow-leafed ragwort). Subsequently, a fractionation approach was set up in combination with LC-MS/MS analysis of the fractions. It was shown that the positive Ames test outcomes of S. jacobaea extracts are unlikely to be caused by PAs, but rather by the flavonoid quercetin. This study also demonstrates the importance of identifying compounds responsible for positive test results in bioassays.