Mullein, Verbascum thapsus, is an old friend. It's an introduced species, native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia, and is naturalized in many parts of North America and elsewhere. It is a member of the Scrophulariaceae, the figworts, both of which are amusing names, at least to me.
It produces large numbers of seeds, which germinate in exposed soil--why this plant is often found in disturbed areas associated with human doings: road edges, empty lots, etc. Although widespread, it isn't particularly invasive, likely because it won't grow in shady areas or among other established plants. It won't compete for sun; it wants to be alone.
Mullein is a biennial. In the first year it produces a rosette of velvety leaves. After the following winter, the flower stem "bolts," i.e., shoots upward, in some cases reaching more than two metres. It flowers gradually throughout the summer, with blooms progressing up the floral spike. The dried brown stems, topped by seed heads, may remain standing throughout the following winter and beyond.
I consider it an old friend because it grew in cottage country, Ontario, where I spent my formative summers. I enjoyed rubbing the velvety leaves. I recall being surprised to learn that it was from somewhere else. Little did I know, almost everything growing along the roadside was from somewhere else, that this was the way of weeds.