Galinsoga ciliata

Shaggy Solider

Botanical description: Hailing from Central America, shaggy soldier requires heat to sprout which speaks to its common occurrence along walls, and in pavement—places where temperatures are heightened. Galinsoga ciliata prefers sunny locations and fertile soils, but can be found in any number of typical urban sites, including vacant lots, rubble piles, and gardens where disturbance ensures germination. Upon first encounter, Galinsoga ciliata’s small stature, soft hairs and reduced flowers project the illusion of a modest plant, tucked into sidewalk cracks and crevices. However, since its introduction to the eastern United States in the early twentieth century, it has increased exponentially, with approximately three generations of seed being produced in one growing season. The entire growth cycle of this annual plant can be completed in three to four weeks, contributing to one of its common names, quick weed. Seeds are wind dispersed by means of a papery sail, but can also be moved around by human and animal vectors. The leaves are known to be quite tasty, especially as a cooked green. The young plant is eaten as a vegetable and dried for use as a seasoning in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa.