Darwin acknowledged contrasting, plausible arguments for how species invasions are influenced by phylogenetic relatedness to the native community. These contrasting arguments persist today without clear resolution. Using data on the naturalization and abundance of exotic plants in the Auckland region, we show how different expectations can be accommodated through attention to scale, assumptions about niche overlap, and stage of invasion. Probability of naturalization was positively related to the number of native species in a genus but negatively related to native congener abundance, suggesting the importance of both niche availability and biotic resistance. Once naturalized, however, exotic abundance was not related to the number of native congeners, but positively related to native congener abundance. Changing the scale of analysis altered this outcome: within habitats exotic abundance was negatively related to native congener abundance, implying that native and exotic species respond similarly to broad scale environmental variation across habitats, with biotic resistance occurring within habitats.