To understand the success of invasive species, it is important to know whether colonization events are facilitated by adaptive evolution or are limited to sites where a species is pre-adapted to thrive. Studies of the ancient colonization patterns of an invader in its native range provide an opportunity to examine its natural history of adaptation and colonization. This study uses molecular (internal transcribed spacer sequence and amplified fragment length polymorphism) and common garden approaches to assess the ancient patterns of establishment and quantitative trait evolution in the invasive shrub Hypericum canariense. This species has an unusually small and discrete native range in the Canary Islands. Our data reveal two genetic varieties with divergent life histories and different colonization patterns across the islands. Although molecular divergence within each variety is large (pairwise FST from 0.18 to 0.32 between islands) and nearly as great as divergence between them, life-history traits show striking uniformity within varieties. The discrepancy between molecular and life-history trait divergence points to the action of stabilizing selection within varieties and the influence of pre-adaptation on patterns of colonization. The colonization history of H. canariense reflects how the relationship between selective environments in founding and source populations can dictate establishment by particular lineages and their subsequent evolutionary stasis or change.