Dendrobine, considered as the major active alkaloid compound, has been used for the quality control and discrimination of Dendrobium which is documented in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia. In this work, a sensitive and simple ultra-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) method for determination of dendrobine in rat plasma is developed. After addition of caulophyline as an internal standard (IS), protein precipitation by acetonitrile-methanol (9:1, v/v) was used to prepare samples. Chromatographic separation was achieved on a UPLC BEH C18 (2.1 ×100 mm, 1.7 µm) column with acetonitrile and 0.1% formic acid as the mobile phase with gradient elution. An electrospray ionization source was applied and operated in positive ion mode; multiple reaction monitoring mode was used for quantification using target fragment ions m/z 264.2 → 70.0 for dendrobine and m/z 205.1 → 58.0 for IS. Calibration plots were linear throughout the range 2-1000 ng/mL for dendrobine in rat plasma. The RSDs of intra-day and inter-day precision were both <13%. The accuracy of the method was between 95.4 and 103.9%. The method was successfully applied to pharmacokinetic study of dendrobine after intravenous administration. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.