Introduced exotic plants can drive ecosystem change. We studied invasion and establishment of Brassica tournefortii (African mustard), a noxious weed, in the Chemehuevi Valley, western Sonoran Desert, California. We used long-term data sets of photographs, transects for biomass of annual plants, and densities of African mustard collected at irregular intervals between 1979 and 2009. We suggest that African mustard may have been present in low numbers along the main route of travel, a highway, in the late 1970s; invaded the valley along a major axial valley ephemeral stream channel and the highway; and by 2009, colonized 22 km into the eastern part of the valley. We developed predictive models for invasibility and establishment of African mustard. Both during the initial invasion and after establishment, significant predictor variables of African mustard densities were surficial geology, proximity to the highway and axial valley ephemeral stream channel, and number of small ephemeral stream channels. The axial valley ephemeral stream channel was the most vulnerable of the variables to invasions. Overall, African mustard rapidly colonized and quickly became established in naturally disturbed areas, such as stream channels, where geological surfaces were young and soils were weakly developed. Older geological surfaces (e.g., desert pavements with soils 140,000 to 300,000 years old) were less vulnerable. Microhabitats also influenced densities of African mustard, with densities higher under shrubs than in the interspaces. As African mustard became established, the proportional biomass of native winter annual plants declined. Early control is important because African mustard can colonize and become well established across a valley in 20 yr.