Fragonia - A remarkable story of discovery, fire and healing

Fragonia - A remarkable story of discovery, fire and healing

  • By Lydia Lassila
  • Jan 15

At ZONE we believe that our choices help shape our future, which is why we are so proud to source our essential oils from Australian businesses like The Paperback Co.

It is important to know where our products come from to ensure they are sustainably sourced and helping to contribute to Australian communities and families. For our essential oils, our Kunzea, Honey Myrtle, Sandalwood all come from a Western Australian family-owned and operated business called The Paperbark Co. They also provide us with Fragonia, which is a precious botanical that we are particularly passionate about.

Fragonia is in our Focus Blend and has a distinctive scent with woody, cinnamon and citrus notes. We talk to Lisa from Paperbark Co about their inspiration for their work and also the devastating fires of 2016 that almost ceased production of precious Fragonia altogether. 

 

 

Lisa tells us that although Paperbark was founded in 1997 by her parents, John and Peta Day, the inspiration began 40 years ago when John and Peta were travelling around Australia and they discovered the benefits of Tea Tree Oil. Lisa tells us that Tea Tree Oil has long been recognised for its healing properties; its use dates back to local aborigines who used the crushed leaves as a poultice for cuts and wounds. She tells us that the antimicrobial properties of Tea Tree Oil were also well recognised at the beginning of World War II and that servicemen fighting in the tropics were given Tea Tree Oil in their kits. 

Following their outback adventures, John and Peta spent years talking about how they’d love to live in the country, and finally in1997 they purchased 64 hectares in Harvey, around 140km south of Perth, where they began to plant Tea Trees. John designed the distillation plant, and in 1998 they produced their first harvest of Tea Tree Oil. 



The Paperbark Co has grown into a purposeful small business with a passion for producing quality natural products while minimising their footprint on the environment. They continue to be inspired by the incredible feedback they receive from their practitioners who use and prescribe their products. From Tea Trees, they did more research and came across a vast untapped biodiversity of oil producing plants in Western Australia and began to expand their farm. This research is also how they came to be the only growers and producers of Fragonia! 

They’d read an article in the April, 2000 Newsletter of the Land for Wildlife Scheme by Chris Robinson, a Botanist with the Department of Agriculture in Albany, Western Australia. Chris was very excited about an aromatic shrub growing in the region – an unidentified species of Agonis. Chris was looking at opportunities to grow and harvest the Agonis in commercial quantities but there was not enough oil available to experiment with, and no-one had been prepared to take the risk of a new farming venture without guaranteed markets for the end product. 

Deciding they were up for this exciting new challenge, in 2001, The Paperbark Co. planted the first trial planting of 5,000 Agonis seedlings and in 2002, The Paperbark Co. gave Agonis fragrans its common name of Fragonia to reflect the fragrant nature of both the foliage and the extracted oil. The farm prospered for many years, expanding to produce even more varieties of essential oils, including Australian Sandalwood, Honey Myrtle and Kunzea, however in 2016, the devastating bushfire that raced through their property almost put an end to it all. 

On Friday the 8th of January 2016, their magnificent crop of Fragonia, which was due to be harvested the following week, had gone up in flames. All that was left were very blackened branches, stumps and burnt irrigation tape. The tea tree, rosalina and honey myrtle were also burnt out. However, these had all been harvested before Christmas, the intensity of the fire through these plants, was not as great, due to less biomass and hence less oil.  

John and Peta knew that they had to save Fragonia, as they were the only commercial growers – they couldn’t let 20 years of their hard work go up in a puff of smoke!  What followed was an incredible journey as the community banded together to help salvage the crop and rebuild and clean up the farm. Luckily, due to sudden wind changes, they had a few very small patches of Fragonia left in the plantation which were not burnt, and from these they were able to source seed. It took many years of hard work but The Paperback Co managed to harvest and distil the patchy Fragonia which enabled them to continue to supply a limited amount of Fragonia oil to practitioners until they could build back up to full supply with a new harvest.

The essence of The Paperbark Co proved their strong Aussie spirit in overcoming the fires and they continue to be committed to maintaining an operation that minimises its impact on the environment. We are so proud to introduce you to the producers of our essential oil ingredients, knowing that the spirit, resilience and love that is put into cultivating these oils continues to flow into each and every ZONE product. 

 

To experience the aromatic effects of Fragonia for yourself, try our Focus essential oil and spray.

 

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