The Indigenous Plant Use Forum, or better known as IPUF, was started to "promote the cultural, socio-economic and scientific benefits to be derived from the sustainable use of the southern African flora". The annual symposia are unique, multicultural and multi-disciplinary events that serve as a meeting point for business people, academics, anthropologists, resource managers, conservationists, policy makers and anyone interested in the sustainable use of the southern African flora. The National Research Foundation (NRF) has graciously funded this gathering since 1993. Dr Carl Albrecht was the first chairman. The current chairman is Prof. Ben-Erik van Wyk, a research professor at the University of Johannesburg.
In 1995 Prof. Van Wyk, as chairman, and Mrs Bettie de Beer (from the NRF), as secretariat, took over the administration and organisation of the forum's annual symposia. Since then the team has organised successful symposia in various locations. The number of attendance grew from 65 delegates in 1998 to ca. 200 in 2007 and ca. 250 in 2015. Each symposium had its own atmosphere, which added to the gradual growth and delegate enthusiasm.
In 2004 the administration of the forum moved from the NRF to the University of Johannesburg's Department of Botany and Plant Biotechnology. The secretariat was taken over by a student at the department, Bernard de Villiers. In 2010 Dr Emmy Reinten (ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij) took over the reins and Bernard volunteered to be the IPUF webmaster. Thinus Fourie, a lecturer at UJ, became IPUF treasurer. In 2013 Dr Isaac Rampedi took over as secretariat and Helen Long became treasurer. In 2016 Tommy Mabasa was chosen to take over the secretariat, while Helen Long continued her role as treasurer and Ashton Ruiters became the new webmaster. In 2015, IPUF and the USA-based Society for Economic Botany held a joint annual conference in Clanwilliam. The 2017 IPUF meeting will be the 20th conference in its present format, and will be held in Pretoria North, Gauteng.
Since IPUF's start up, the conference has attracted enthusiastic support from a diversity of interest groups and has been especially successful in promoting scientific research amongst young black students. Institutions, governmental organisations, businesses and private citizens from across South Africa and the other countries (Botswana, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, USA, Bangladesh, India, Netherlands, Germany and others) respond enthusiastically to the call for presentations for the symposium.