This study demonstrates the value of legacy literature and historic collections as a source of data on environmental history. Chenopodium vulvaria L. has declined in northern Europe and is of conservation concern in several countries, whereas in other countries outside Europe it has naturalised and is considered an alien weed. In its European range it is considered native in the south, but the northern boundary of its native range is unknown. It is hypothesised that much of its former distribution in northern Europe was the result of repeated introductions from southern Europe and that its decline in northern Europe is the result of habitat change and a reduction in the number of propagules imported to the north. A historical analysis of its ecology and distribution was conducted by mining legacy literature and historical botanical collections. Text analysis of habitat descriptions written on specimens and published in botanical literature covering a period of more than 200 years indicate that the habitat and introduction pathways of C. vulvaria have changed with time. Using the non-European naturalised range in a climate niche model, it is possible to project the range in Europe. By comparing this predicted model with a similar model created from all observations, it is clear that there is a large discrepancy between the realized and predicted distributions. This is discussed together with the social, technological and economic changes that have occurred in northern Europe, with respect to their influence on C. vulvaria.