Escape from enemies in the native range is often assumed to contribute to the successful invasion of exotic species. Following optimal defence theory, which assumes a trade-off between herbivore resistance and plant growth, some have predicted that the success of invasive species could be the result of the evolution of lower resistance to herbivores and increased allocation of resources to growth and reproduction. Lack of evidence for ubiquitous costs of producing plant toxins, and the recognition that invasive species may escape specialist, but not generalist enemies, has led to a new prediction: invasive species may escape ecological trade-offs associated with specialist herbivores, and evolve increased, rather than decreased, production of defensive compounds that are effective at deterring generalist herbivores in the introduced range. We tested the performance of two generalist lepidopteran herbivores, Trichoplusia ni and Orgyia vetusta, when raised on diets of native and invasive populations of the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica. Pupae of T. ni were significantly larger when reared on native populations. Similarly, caterpillars of O. vetusta performed significantly better when raised on native populations, indicating that invasive populations of the California poppy are more resistant to herbivores than native populations. The chance of successful establishment of some non-indigenous plant species may be increased by retaining resistance to generalist herbivores, and in some cases, invasive species may be able to escape ecological trade-offs in their new range and evolve, as we observed, even greater resistance to generalist herbivores than native plants.