The Cool Americas team here. This orchid can be found in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It generally lives in flat, wet, boggy areas. We grow it in the cool America section and it is one of the nicest smelling orchids we have. The scent is very perfume-like.
Simon Pugh-Jones adds: We have seen this species growing in Brazil at around 1200m altitude in road banks in the mountains and as a terrestrial in grassy and scrubby areas like that shown below. Here it is not really growing in soil but a loose mix of leaf litter and moss. Its scent is to attract euglossine (perfume gathering) bees just as Gongora species do.
There is some confusion/disagreement over species limits in Zygopetalum as maculatum now covers plants previously named Zygopetalum mackayi and intermedium. It is interesting to note that plants we found in Brazil of these types clearly had two different scents, one very sweet and another rather peppery implying that the two populations (possibly different species) may be attracting different pollinators and so be distinct.
The photograph shows the species flowering at the base of a small tree in Brazil in 2005 and growing amongst ferns and mosses.
In cultivation Zygopetalums can suffer from black marks on the leaves. We believe that this is environmental and we avoid the problem by growing the species cool and damp to avoid heat stress to the soft leaves. Notice the beautiful leaves on the wild plant in its cool damp habitat.