Like its namesake, the Shaggy Soldier is apt to take up quarters in the homes of other plants, a clear violation of the third amendment if there ever was one. Originating in Mexico and starting god knows when, it marched along the Atlantic coast, until in 1836 it established a stronghold in Bartram Botanical Garden, Philadelphia’s own pride and joy.
Earlier in 1796, the English were foolish enough to purposefully import this rapscallion into Kew Gardens from which it quickly escaped – first to Ireland, then east. In 1852 Shaggy Soldiers were spotted in Hamburg, Germany, from whence its kind made the long and perilous trek to the Netherlands. Arriving in 1925, it displaced local flora and confounded indigenous fauna, as it does to this day. But nor was this enough. Further eastward still, it vaulted across Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. It marched across Russia in a fashion that would have made Napoleon weep and breached China’s walls with an ease that makes the Great Genghis Khan look like a foolish errand boy.