Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

I need help explaining the imagery used in strange fruit. I get that the fruit is the black bodies, but what is:
  • The tree
  • It's roots
  • It's leaves
  • The crows
  • The sun
  • wind
  • Southern breeze
And elements like the pastoral south and what they mean in the context of the poem.

I would really apreciate any help!
This is a highly disturbing image of the American South, at a time when it was not unheard of to lynch (hang) black men for no good reason at all. I would take the rest of the poem's elements to be quite literal. No one tended to the body of the poor man hanged in such a manner. It's hardly what I think of when I hear the word "pastoral."
So what is trying to be portrayed by describing the south as such a plesent place?
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
There is nothing pleasant about this poem!
"Pastoral scene of the gallant South" Sounds pleasent enough to me.

What is this lines purpose?
It's to draw a deliberate contrast between the sweet and serene beauty of the South with the horrible actions and their consquences.

The same with the scent of the magnolias.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.