The Common Mullein, or verbascum thapsus, was introduced to my front yard by a friend who referred to it as the "Grand Wizard of the Ontario Roadside". His attempts at cultivation were unsuccessful, however, many years later this spectacular example of the species sprouted.
Turns out the tiny seeds can remain in the soil for up to a hundred years, often sprouting after a forest fire or a clearing of other vegetation. The plant is biennial, producing a rosette of soft and hairy leaves the first year, followed by the tall stalk of yellow flowers the subsequent summer. The plant usually dies after this display, scattering almost a quarter million seeds.
Imported to North America in the early 1800's, Mullein quickly spread to all states and southern Canada. In some regions it carries the vernacular name "Cowboy's toilet paper". Driving north, you can see Common Mullein along the road and the further you drive, the shorter the stalks. None of these northern brothers can rival the 9' monster dominating my yard, impressive enough to entice a woodpecker: