Boronia is a genus of small shrubs, with approximately 95 species and all but one are native to Australia. Many species in the genus are renowned for their spectacular floral displays and unusual scent but brown boronia (Boronia megastigma) is particularly sought after for its fragrant flowers.
Brown boronia is native to the south west of Western Australia. A perennial shrub growing to 1–2 metres in height, it has small aromatic leaves and in springtime, it produces flowers that have a very intense and attractive fragrance. The flowers are usually deep chocolate brown on the outside of the cupped petals, and bright yellow on the inside, however there is some variation in colour between types.
While both leaves and the flowers are fragrant, only the flowers are used for production of essential oil/extract. The purified oil extract has been available on the world market since the 1920s. Traditionally, brown boronia was harvested from wild stands in Western Australia for cut flowers and essential oil production, however this has now stopped due to the risk of disease being spread through native plant communities. Brown boronia has been farmed since the mid-1980s, mainly in Tasmania.
Boronia oil/extract is used in perfumery and as food flavouring with the major markets being United States of America and Europe. It is also used in aromatherapy.
The boronia oil/extract industry is classified as a maturing industry in Australia and the interests of its growers and producers are represented by The Essential Oils Producers Association of Australia.
Facts and figures
- Boronia oil/extract is extracted from the flowers of Boronia megastigma, which is native to Western Australia
- Boronia is difficult to establish and manage—plants are propagated from cuttings which are susceptible to root rots and rust
- The oil/extract is extracted by a complex solvent extraction process
- As at 2012, 30 hectares of boronia was in production in Australia, yielding two tonnes of flowers per hectare with a value of AU$780,000
- The markets for boronia oil/extract are highly specialised and entrants to the industry should consider producing boronia oil/extract under contract
As at 2012, commercial production of boronia in Australia was around 30 hectares, with most of that area made up of four separate plantations in Tasmania, the main producing state. A small amount of boronia oil/extract is also produced in Western Australia.
A mature plantation produces around two tonnes of flowers per hectare, so Australian production in 2012 equated to around 60 tonnes of boronia flowers, which had a gross value of AU$780,000.