A rare rhododendron at the Meudon Hotel could be the key to ensuring the survival of the species.

The hotel’s gardens near Mawnan Smith, which were designed by the Fox family that also created Trebah and Glendurgan, include the rhododendron Protristum.

This means “first of the first,” in recognition of its early blooming in late January and early February.

Gaye Woods, from the hotel, said: “We nicknamed the tree ‘the silly one’ because of its early flowering.”

Soon, however, it could be referred to as “the important one”, as the National Trust has plans to propagate it.

John Lanyon, the National Trust’s garden manager, paid a surprise visit to the hotel and left with some buds of the plant, to use in a new propagation method being piloted by Duchy College.

If successful the scheme will result in young plants to bring on and continue the strain.

Gaye joked: “Meudon boasts two trees – I believe Trebah and Glendurgan may possibly be a little jealous.”